TEXAS LONGHORNS (9-1)
at NORTH CAROLINA TAR HEELS (7-2)
Dean E. Smith Center Ė Chapel Hill, NC
Tip-off: Wednesday, 7:00 p.m. ET
Line: North Carolina -11
Coming off a third win against a ranked team, No. 14 North Carolina returns to the court Wednesday to host Texas, which has yet to play a ranked team this season.
The Tar Heels beat then-No. 11 Kentucky on Saturday and now own an impressive resume with other big wins against then-No. 3 Louisville and then-No. 1 Michigan State. But they have also lost to two mid-major teams in UAB and Belmont on their home floor. The Longhornsí only loss this season came to BYU on a neutral court, and they are now 4-3 ATS on the season. North Carolina is 6-3 ATS overall, and 3-2 ATS at the Dean Dome. Rebounding may be a key in this one as the Tar Heels were outrebounded by 15 boards in their most recent loss to UAB, and were able to beat the Wildcats despite getting outrebounded by 12. But thatís not a consistent formula for success and could prove difficult against a Longhorns squad that averages 43.7 RPG (11th in nation) with a hefty +9.5 RPG margin. A struggling Texas team crushed Carolina 85-67 last season, forcing 18 Tar Heels turnovers and holding them to 31.3% FG and 3-for-19 from three-point range. Rick Barnes is 17-38 ATS (31%) as the head coach at Texas after two or more consecutive overs, but underdogs of 10 to 19.5 points after a blowout win by 30+ points against an opponent after a combined score of 155+ points are 81-46 ATS (64%) since 1997.
Can Carolina avenge last season's loss with a convincing win over Texas? For the latest college basketball picks, check out The Platinum Sheet for all the StatFox Experts selections every week throughout the entire 2013-14 season. The StatFox Experts have been rolling in college basketball Best Bets this season with a 60% ATS (92-61-5) mark, including an eye-popping 69% ATS (57-26) record since Nov. 26. StatFox Zach is leading the way at 67% ATS (20-10-1) on Best Bets this season, while StatFox Scott is 61% ATS (19-12), StatFox Gary is 60% ATS (18-12-2), StatFox Brian is 60% ATS (18-12-1) and StatFox Dave is 53% ATS (17-15-1).
The Longhorns have a balanced offense with no player averaging as much as 13 points per game, but five players each tallying double-digits. Leading the way is 6-foot-8 junior PF Jonathan Holmes (12.9 PPG, 6.8 RPG) who is putting up impressive numbers despite playing only 22.8 MPG. He and C Cameron Ridley (10.3 PPG, 7.8 RPG) are strong rebounders and menaces defensively, combining for 4.6 BPG. Ridley is coming off a career-high 22 points (8-of-10 FG) in Saturday's 85-53 win over Texas State, adding 10 rebounds for his third double-double in the past six games. Sophomore C Prince Ibeh (5.7 PPG, 4.0 RPG) is also a swat machine with 2.4 BPG in 14.9 MPG. Holmes is also a 3-point threat (48% threes this season) and hit 2-of-3 from distance in last yearís win over the Tar Heels, pouring in 15 points with eight boards. Sophomore SG Demarcus Holland (11.0 PPG, 5.6 RPG) is the only Longhorns player with more than 30 MPG (33.1 MPG), and is reliable on both ends of the floor (1.5 SPG). Freshman PG Isaiah Taylor (11.7 PPG, 3.8 APG, 3.5 RPG) isnít much of an outside shooter (1-for-6 threes), but can move the ball well, while sophomore G Javan Felix (10.8 PPG, 3.1 APG) needs to improve on his 34.0% FG shooting, but is coming off a career-high four three-pointers made (4-of-7). Felix played pretty well against UNC last season with eight points, eight assists and three steals, but he made just 3-of-12 shots.
The only player currently on North Carolina's roster to score double-digits last year against Texas was PF James Michael McAdoo (13.8 PPG, 5.8 RPG), who netted 14 points with nine rebounds and six steals before fouling out. McAdoo had the best game of his season against Kentucky on Saturday with 20 points, getting to the foul line 19 times (12-of-19 FT). PG Marcus Paige (19.2 PPG, 4.2 APG) leads the team in scoring and put home 23 against the Wildcats. After being a pass-first guard last season, Paige has been forced to assume a larger offensive role this season (12+ points in all nine games) because of the teamís lack of weapons. Like McAdoo, Paige fouled out against Texas last year, finishing the game with just seven points (2-of-8 FG, 1-of-6 threes), five assists and three turnovers. Sophomore C Brice Johnson (13.0 PPG, 6.9 RPG) joins McAdoo down low, as do PFs Kennedy Meeks (7.7 PPG, 6.3 RPG) and Joel James (4.1 PPG, 4.8 RPG), who both have solid numbers despite both playing less than 15 MPG. One of the teamís more versatile assets is swingman J.P. Tokoto (10.0 PPG, 5.0 RPG), who at 6-foot-5 has a strong jump shot (48% FG) that can stretch opposing defenses. His production is critical, as SGs P.J. Hairston (14.6 PPG last season) and Leslie McDonald (7.2 PPG last season) remain suspended due to NCAA eligibility concerns.