The second of today’s Final Four match-ups is between No. 1 North Carolina Tar Heels and No. 3 Oregon Ducks (8.49pm ET Saturday on CBS). To read our preview and predictions for Gonzaga vs South Carolina, click here.
For Oregon and North Carolina, just one more game separates them from a chance to play for the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship. It has been a long road to this point but both teams have proved that they have earned their spot in the Final Four.
This is not North Carolina’s first time in the Final Four. In fact, it’s not even their first time in the last two years as the Tar Heels are now in back-to-back Final Fours, marking the fifth time in this history North Carolina has accomplished that feat. A win against Oregon would also mark the first time in its history that UNC went to back-to-back national championships.
The Tar Heels were coming off a less than impressive performance in the ACC Championship tournament, losing to in-state rival Duke in the semifinals. This loss, was UNC’s second in their prior four games and one that had some questioning if the Tar Heels would even get a No. 1 seed in the national tournament or if that seed would instead go to Duke. Well, North Carolina did manage to hold on to that top seed, proving the selection committee right.
North Carolina breezed past their first round opponent in #16 Texas Southern, before moving on to #8 Arkansas. The Razorbacks gave UNC a fight but in the end, North Carolina’s experience and play late in the game won out. UNC went on to defeat Butler by 12 points in the Sweet 16 and then outlasted Kentucky in a tough, gritty Elite 8 match-up. North Carolina won by just two points in that one, to earn their spot in the Final Four for the fifth time in the last 12 years and 11th time since 1991.
Their opponent, Oregon, is playing in just their second Final Four ever and first since 1939, the first year the NCAA tournament was held. While the Ducks did manage to win the title that year, that’s a big difference in experience compared to UNC, who has a coach and players who have been in this situation before. For the Ducks, this is Dana Altman’s first trip to the Final Four in his seven-year career. However, experience hasn’t stopped Oregon yet thanks to the talent and depth this team boasts.
Like North Carolina, Oregon entered the national tournament after losing their conference tournament. Also like UNC, they were favored but came up just short against Arizona in the Pac-12 final. Part of this reason was an injury to Chris Boucher, who had been one of the team’s most consistent and top-level performers during the regular season.
Without Boucher, few expected Oregon to be able to repeat their feat from last year when they reached the Elite 8 for just the first time since 2007. But the Ducks played strong from the outset, easily getting past #14 Iona in the first round. Oregon was challenged in their next two games however, narrowly escaping the upset against #11 Rhode Island in the second round and defeating #7 Michigan by just one point.
What should have been Oregon’s toughest challenge, against their region’s top-seeded Kansas, was nothing of the sort. Oregon led almost the entire game and never really faced any sort of trouble from the Jayhawks. The Ducks had a full team effort, placing four of five starters in double-figures, and had their best performance of the tournament, winning over Kansas by 14 points.
For Oregon, a team that could have folded after the announcement of Boucher’s injury, this was the best result they could have asked for. It certainly was a confidence booster which should help their chances at taking down yet another No. 1 seed, which is in no way an easy or enviable task.
This Preview’s North Carolina Tar Heels vs Oregon Ducks Picks & Predictions Conclusion
One of the biggest strengths of UNC throughout the tournament has been their defense as the Tar Heels have held their opponents to just over 70 points per game. They have also been dominant on the boards, outrebounding their opponents by an average of 14. Limiting second chance opportunities, UNC has only allowed 33 total offensive rebounds across their four games so far. That has been huge for the Tar Heels.
They will be facing a team that is pretty good defensively themselves. Thanks to Pac-12 defensive player of the year Jordan Bell (pictured), Oregon has limited opponents to just 69.3 points per game. Bell himself has made history becoming just the fourth player to record four consecutive games of 12-plus rebounds. Simply put, this game very well could be won on the boards.
- Coming to our predictions and betting picks, the spread with the USA bookies currently favors North Carolina by five points and sets the total between 152pts and 153pts. The over has held in eight of Oregon’s last 11 games. Go over 152pts @ -103 with 5Dimes Sportsbook.
- The Ducks have played well as underdogs in recent memory too, going 12-4-1 ATS in their last 17 games in that role. That means there’s decent money to be had on Oregon. Not to mention the fact that Oregon has played close in two of their four tournament games so far. Our pick is to take Oregon +5pts @ -104, again those best odds are to be had with 5Dimes.
Marilee writes on NFL, MLB, NBA & tennis for USA Betting. Another area of her sporting journalistic expertise is pro wrestling. A native of Philadelphia and a big Eagles fan, she has been a sports writer for many major websites including Bleacher Report and Rant Sports. She started her journalistic career early, as sports editor for her college newspaper.