USA TODAY Sports
Top-ranked North Carolina is threatening to eliminate any suspense in regards to winning the regular-season ACC crown with its best start in league play since 2000-01. The Tar Heels experienced no shortage of drama in three encounters with Louisville last season, however, which is something the 14th-ranked Cardinals hope to create at home Monday, two days after suffering their most lopsided defeat in the six-year history of the KFC Yum! Center.
North Carolina coach Roy Williams remained unsatisfied despite his team’s 89-62 home rout of last-place Boston College on Saturday for its 12th straight victory, realizing his squad has yet to face any one of the ACC’s other five ranked teams. “It’s what it is. … I think we have 10 more games: six of them are on the road, and a bunch of the games are against those teams in the top half of the league. 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. Louisville, which sits two games behind the Tar Heels and in second place in the ACC, was dreadful by comparison over the weekend, scoring a season-low 14 first-half points en route to a 63-47 loss versus No. 12 Virginia. “Unfortunately, I saw this day coming … not quite as bad as we played tonight but I did see it coming just by the way we were playing defense (Wednesday) against Virginia Tech. It is not going to get an easier because (North) Carolina plays right into our weakness, which is transition defense,” coach Rick Pitino said.
LINE HISTORY: While the line could jump the fence before tipoff, the Tar Heels have opened as 1-point road roads. It would be the first time this season North Carolina would be listed as underdogs. The total opened at 148.5.
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North Carolina – F J. James (questionable Monday, Achilles).
Louisville – C C. Onuaku (probable Monday, illness), C M. Mathiang (Early February, foot).
ABOUT NORTH CAROLINA (19-2, 9-11-1 ATS, 14-7 O/U): Senior point guard Marcus Paige (12.7 points) broke out of a four-game slump in which he totaled 15 points on 5-of-35 shooting by going 4-of-9 – including three 3-pointers – 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 shootaround. The Tar Heels allowed as many field goals versus BC as they forced turnovers (season-high 23), which resulted in a season-high 30 points off turnovers for North Carolina.
ABOUT LOUISVILLE (17-4, 8-9 ATS, 8-8-1 O/U): Damion Lee (16.7 points) and Trey Lewis (12.3) were held scoreless for the first 28-plus 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 boards in 19 minutes. Deng Adel (3.1 points) proved to be one of the few bright spots, scoring a team-high 12 points Saturday after entering the contest with eight total points over his last eight games and 25 for the season. Fellow freshman reserve Raymond Spalding (5.7 points) matched his best marks in league play with 12 points and seven rebounds.
* North Carolina is 1-4 ATS in their last five games following a ATS win.
* Louisville is 2-8 ATS in their last 10 games overall.
* Over is 8-2 in North Carolina’s last 10 road games.
* Under is 6-1 in Louisville’s last seven games following a straight up loss.
COVERS CONSENSUS: Bettors are backing the road side in this ACC showdown, with 64 percent of wagers on the Tar Heels. As for the total, 56 percent of wagers are on the under.