The talk heading into the tournament for Oregon is how they lost key forward Chris Boucher (ACL) in the Pac 12 tournament. Many thought that a Sweet 16 appearance was possible, but a Final Four trip? That seemed like a stretch.
But the Ducks have surprised the naysayers, knocking off 14-seed Iona, 11-seed Rhode Island, 7-seed Michigan, and 1-seed Kansas. The Jayhawks were definitely favored against Oregon, but the latter pulled out a solid 74-60 victory. Next up: North Carolina, the tournament’s top-overall seed.
Getting here hasn’t been easy for UNC because they survived 8-seed Arkansas in the second round, and needed a Luke Maye game-winner to knock off Kentucky. Despite the close calls, nothing has changed for UNC, and a championship is still the expectation.
Will they win the school’s sixth national championship? Let’s find out by discussing both teams and also going over betting strategy for this game.
No. 3 Oregon (33-5) vs. No. 1 Gonzaga (31-7); Saturday (April 1 @ 8:35pm)
GTBets.eu Betting Line: Oregon +5 (-110); North Carolina -5 (-110)
Why the Ducks will Cover their +5 Spread
This team is led by the energetic Dillon Brooks (16.3 PPG), a 6’6″ forward who shoots 41% from beyond the arc. Sophomore guard Tyler Dorsey (14.5 PPG) also shoots well from three-point range, hitting 42.3% of his attempts. Dorsey has been the key in March Madness, averaging 24.5 points while making 17-of-26 three-pointers (65.4%) in four games.
6’9″ junior forward Jordan Bell (10.9 PPG, 8.6 RPG, 2.2 BPG) is a reason why Oregon is one of the few teams that can contend with North Carolina’s size. Coach Dana Altman will probably use the 6’11” Kavell Bigby-Williams more in this game too. Bigby-Williams plays less than 10 minutes a game, but he also averages nearly 1 block in this limited time.
Much of the Ducks’ hopes rely on Dorsey staying hot, and Brooks/Bell/Bigby-Williams being able to contain UNC’s front line. If they can do this, then they have a realistic shot at moving onto the school’s first national championship game since 1939.
Regarding betting, Oregon is 3-1 against the spread (ATS) in the tournament. In the 11 games leading up to March Madness, the Ducks were 7-4 ATS.
Why the Tar Heels will cover their -5 Spread
North Carolina avenged an earlier loss to Kentucky by winning 75-73 in dramatic fashion. The close game wasn’t totally surprising, given that the Wildcats had three potential NBA lottery picks on their roster. But UNC survived the test and are in their second-straight Final Four.
Leading scorers Justin Jackson (18.2 PPG) and Joel Berry III (14.6 PPG) struggled against Kentucky, hitting 11-of-29 shots, including 1-for-10 from three-point range. Lucky for them, 6’10” Kennedy Meeks (12.3 PPG, 9.3 RPG) was a beast, grabbing 17 rebounds (5 offensive) and blocking four shots.
Meeks is joined on the front line by 6’9″ Isaiah Hicks (12.1 PPG, 5.4 PPG) and 6’6″ Todd Pinson (6.0 PPG, 4.2 RGP). Hicks will need to step up against Oregon since he had 4 points and zero rebounds against Kentucky; but he did help the defensive effort, blocking 3 shots.
What makes UNC even harder to defend is the fact that they can bring the 6”8″ Maye off the bench. Although the sophomore is only averaging 5.8 points during the season, he’s scoring 12.5 PPG in March Madness, including 16.5 points over the past two games.
The Tar Heels have multiple forwards that they can employ at any time. Plus, Jackson is a 6’8″ forward who plays like a shooting guard. There’s a very good chance that North Carolina can impose their will on the shorter and less-deep Ducks.
UNC is 2-1-1 ATS in March Madness, and 5-2-1 ATS in their eight games before the tourney.
Final Thoughts on Oregon vs. North Carolina Betting
It’s not hard to see why the Ducks made the Final Four when you consider that Dorsey has stepped up big-time, averaging 24.5 points during March Madness and shooting a blistering 65% from beyond the arc. Add in the usually strong play of Brooks, Bell, and Ennis, and this is a legitimate Final Four squad.
The problem, though, is that Oregon’s front line will get wore out competing against the likes of Meeks, Hicks, Pinson, Jackson, and Maye. Bell is a very good rebounder and shot blocker, while Bigby-Williams will provide shot blocking off the bench. However, the Ducks can’t rotate forwards in and out of the game the entire time like UNC. That said, we expect the Tar Heels to have big rebounding and paint-scoring advantages.
Final Score Prediction: North Carolina wins 85-77