#2 North Carolina (19-2, 8-0) at #16 Louisville (17-4, 6-2)
When: Monday, February 1st 2016
Where: KFC Yum! Center, Louisville, KY
Time: 7:00 ET | TV: ESPN
The Louisville Cardinals will try and rebound from a loss on Saturday when they host the second-ranked North Carolina Tar Heels on Monday night. The Cardinals suffered their worst loss in the six-year history of the KFC Yum! Center when they were outplayed by Virginia 63-47. Louisville came out cold scoring only 14 first-half points and could never recover. I covered that game here on our website and mentioned how I thought Louisville might be caught looking ahead to Monday’s tilt with the Tar Heels. Damion Lee (16.7 points) and Trey Lewis (12.3) were held scoreless for the first 28+ minutes against Virginia and settled for a combined 10 points while sophomore center Chinanu Onuaku (10.1 points, 8.5 rebounds) battled through an illness and was limited to one point and no rebounds in 19 minutes. Deng Adel, who averages only 3.1 points a game, scored a team-high 12 points Saturday after entering the contest with eight total points over his last eight games and 25 for the season. Freshman reserve Raymond Spalding (5.7 points) matched his best marks in league play with 12 points and seven rebounds. Louisville allowed Virginia to shoot 57.8% for the game, but they still lead the ACC in FG defense at 37.7% and lead the nation in scoring margin (19.1).
The Tar Heels can open a three-game lead in the ACC with a victory tonight in Louisville. They are off to their best start (8-0) in conference play since the 2000-01 season. North Carolina took care of last-place Boston College 89-62 on Saturday, but coach Roy Williams wasn’t satisfied. “If we play the way we played the last four games, it will be very, very, very difficult to win any of those games,” Williams said referring to the slew of ranked ACC teams that the Tar Heels have coming up. Senior point guard Marcus Paige (12.7 points) broke out of a four-game scoring slump in which he totaled just 15 points on 5-of-35 shooting. He went 4-of-9 including three 3-pointers on Saturday to finish with 12 points. Isaiah Hicks (9.9 points) drew his first start of the season in place of Kennedy Meeks (11.9 points, 6.4 rebounds), who Williams stated was benched after he became only the fourth player in his 28 years of coaching to arrive late to a shoot-around. The Tar Heels forced a season-high 23 turnovers on Saturday which resulted in another season-best of 30 points. The Tar Heels took two of the three meetings with Louisville last season including a 70-60 victory in the ACC Tournament.
Louisville has played a much tougher schedule so far in conference than North Carolina. Are the Tar Heels really the best in the ACC? We’ll find out a lot tonight. I think the Cardinals rebound strong from Saturday’s defeat and take care of North Carolina in a close game.
Pick: Louisville -1