The North Carolina Tar Heels will host the Gonzaga Bulldogs in a top-25 showdown on Saturday at the Dean Smith Center in Chapel Hill. Both the Tar Heels and Bulldogs have Final Four dreams this season, and both teams are off to solid starts. Gonzaga comes in as the fourth-ranked team in college basketball, while UNC checks in at number 12.
North Carolina brings a 7-2 record into this matchup, but they are 4-0 at home so far this season. The Tar Heels suffered a close loss to Texas earlier this season and were blown out by the Michigan Wolverines in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Gonzaga roared out to a 9-0 start this season but suffered a close loss to Tennessee in their previous game. The Tar Heels are -2.5 over the Bulldogs in this matchup.
Tar Heels Can Put Up Points
North Carolina is one of the most explosive teams in college basketball this season, putting up an average of 93.3 points per game. The 93.3 points per game is the fifth-best scoring average in the country, and the Tar Heels are able to score both on the perimeter and in the paint. On the flip side, North Carolina is giving up a whopping 73.7 points per game, which is one of the worst defensive averages among power-five conference teams.
Cameron Johnson and Coby White have been the biggest scoring threats for the Tar Heels this season, combing for 31 points per game. Johnson and White give the Tar Heels deep shooting threats, combining for 38 three’s on better than 40 percent shooting. Center Luke Maye is still averaging 13.7 points and 9.4 rebounds per game, but his numbers have taken a step back from a monster junior season. North Carolina will be able to score in this game, but they must also be willing to defend.
Gonzaga is Efficient On Offense
The Gonzaga Bulldogs actually average more points per game than the Tar Heels at 94.1 points per game, but they get it done much more efficiently. The Bulldogs are shooting over 52 percent from the field this season, which is third best in college basketball. Gonzaga has a 1.76 assist to turnover ratio, and they are almost impossible to guard on the offensive end. Playing in front of a rowdy crowd in Chapel Hill will be a good test for this veteran group.
Rui Hachimura and Zach Norvell Jr. have been the offensive stars for Gonzaga this season. The dynamic duo is averaging close to forty points per game this season, and have played great basketball all season long. Hachimura looks like a lottery pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, and is shooting better than 56 percent from the field. If Hachimura and Norvell play well in this game, Gonzaga could get a big road win.
UNC Protects Home Court
This should be a terrific non-conference matchup between college basketball giants, and we could easily see a rematch in March. Gonzaga looked like the best team in the country for much of the season but struggled to score in their loss to Tennessee. North Carolina has been up and down this season, but it is extremely hard to beat them in Chapel Hill. Look for this to be a high scoring affair, but the Tar Heels will get a big home win. Bet North Carolina -2.5 over Gonzaga in this showdown.