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NCAA Final Four – Oregon vs UNC Prediction

Oregon Ducks(33-5) @ North Carolina Tar Heels(31-7)

  • Where: University of Phoenix Stadium. Phoenix, Arizona (Neutral Site)
  • When: April 1, 2017 8:49 pm EST
  • Spread: Oregon (+5) vs North Carolina (-5)
  • Moneyline: Oregon (+180) vs North Carolina (-210)
  • Over / Under: Over 152 (-110) vs Under 152 (-110)

So, let’s suppose you’ve followed MSB’s betting recommendations closely throughout March Madness. Regional futures plays on Southern Methodist, Iowa State and finally Kentucky landed with a thud, but a wager on Gonzaga worked out okay. Meanwhile you absolutely killed the Sweet Sixteen with a Zags/Tar Heels parlay and a terrific Xavier-def-Arizona upset special.

Now in the black and playing with “house” money, how to proceed in the final three games?

North Carolina vs Oregon provides a tighter money line than the other semifinal, in which Gonzaga is a solid favorite to beat South Carolina. The Tar Heels have a total package of coaching, size, talent and experience to go with one of the fiercest rebounding units in the sport. But the Oregon Ducks could be the sexiest pick in the Final Four, with the tournament’s hottest player in sophomore guard Tyler Dorsey.

UNC is the mighty oak tree – Oregon is the determined kid with a hatchet. Analysts have identified three possible angles from which the Ducks could conceivably chop down the favorites. Let’s take a look at each one and see what holds water – or wood chips.

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Can Oregon make the Tar Heels go small?

Bet Oregon vs UNC at BovadaBurly veteran defensive specialist Chris Boucher was sidelined with an ACL tear before the NCAA Tournament, so Oregon head coach Dana Altman went with an old survival tactic, now considered a viable big-league option in the post-Stephen Curry era – small ball.

Altman’s strategy has obviously been working, to the tune of 4-0 in the big tourney. With a hot-shooting group of talented guards and quick forwards, some feel that even a much-larger team like North Carolina will be ran off the boards by the nimble Ducks.

MSB rates this claim as “mostly false.” While UNC skipper Roy Williams may preach running, his chalkboard still includes two very large X’s on the inside, where stud power-forward Isaiah Hicks and 6’10” Kennedy Meeks will go. Oregon is not good enough defensively to steal the ball before the Tar Heels make it to half-court possession, so the favorites will play at the pace they prefer.

Switch ’em up?

In Oregon’s 74-60 Elite Eight win over #1 seed Kansas, the Ducks used a chameleon-like defensive scheme that constantly shifted between zone, man-to-man and double-team gimmicks. The gambit confused the Jayhawks, who missed shot after shot as the clock ticked down.

Can the youths from Eugene make UNC as ice-cold as they’ve been a few times this season?

It’s doubtful. Kansas is a long-range shooting team, and long-bounding misses helped nullify their size advantage over Oregon. The Carolina Blue are so good at rebounding (44 against Kentucky) that missed shots are an opportunity to score, or at least a chance to recover and hold the ball for another 30 seconds.

When space does present itself, North Carolina’s wonder-kid Justin Jackson will step to the foreground with his 6’8″ frame, deft ball-handling and shooting touch.

Can Tyler Dorsey out-play Joel Berry III? 

The simplest strategy could give Oregon its best chance – try to turn the game into a battle of prolific guards. Altman might be missing his best defender in Boucher, but his best offensive weapon has never shined brighter. Dorsey – a potential tournament MVP – was lights-out against Kansas, going an amazing 15-for-23 from the field including 6-of-10 from beyond the arc.

The 6’4″ sophomore is more consistent than UNC star Joel Berry III, staying healthy and scoring a higher clip throughout the year. Berry was treated for a rolled ankle after the Kentucky win, which is one of the reasons the point spread (Oregon +5) is so slender.

But Williams does not intend to win this game on the playground. He plans to win it with superior size, relentless rebounds and outside-inside passing through a clever-but-vulnerable Duck defense. If Berry shines, great. If not, the Tar Heels can score in other ways. Meanwhile, UNC will have better options for defending Dorsey than Oregon – who will likely ask freshman role-player Peyton Pritchard to guard Berry – can muster.

Tyler and the Big Toaster

Bettors must take a quick note about the venue, University of Phoenix Stadium. The NCAA has taken criticism for hosting the Final Four in football stadiums, since shooting can become a depth-perception riddle.

Players are often able to make ingrained shots such as top-of-the-key jumpers or free-throws, but anything from a less-common angle is an issue due to the deeper stadium background framed in the shooter’s eye. RPG Stadium in Houston, for instance, has been statistically shown to discourage scoring.

There are no statistics that suggest the Big Toaster is unwelcoming to cagers. But it gets hot in there. Combined with the brand new scenery, media distractions, heightened pressure, and of course being defended by North Carolina, it is not unfathomable that Tyler Dorsey and fellow Oregon ace Dillon Brooks will simply not fare as well from the field on Saturday as they have in a quartet of tourney games held in cozy arenas.

Take the Tar Heels ATS

Let’s have a little fun with house money. Oregon is the current media darling, but North Carolina is the college basketball program that just beat the Kentucky Wildcats, an NBA farm-team with multiple lottery picks on the roster. The most significant thing about UNC’s win over Kentucky was that very, very few other squads in the NCAA field could have bested the lanky leapers from Lexington.

The Tar Heels are a level above the Ducks and have at least an 80% chance to win. But the money line odds are droll. Take advantage of the tight point spread, which is likely a snap-reaction to Berry’s weekly injury scare, and wager on North Carolina to win by 6 points or more on Saturday night.

Kurt BoyerThis article was written by Kurt Boyer

A freelance sportswriter from Missouri, Kurt has covered court, gridiron, rink and ring for 10+ years. He muses about High School football on social media as The Gridiron Geek.

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