NCAA Tournament Elite Eight betting preview and odds: Kentucky vs North Carolina

Kentucky Wildcats vs North Carolina Tar Heels (-2.5, 160)

Game to be played at FedExForum, Memphis, Tennessee

Two of the most successful programs in college basketball history meet Sunday in the NCAA Tournament Elite Eight at FedEx Forum in Memphis, Tenn., and the South Region game between top-seeded North Carolina and No. 2 seed Kentucky also serves as a rematch of one of the best games this season. The Wildcats beat North Carolina 103-100 on Dec. 17 in a one-day showcase in Las Vegas as Malik Monk scored 47 points, a freshman record at Kentucky, hitting the go-ahead 3-pointer with 16.7 seconds left.

Both teams faced challenging roads to this point – especially Kentucky, which beat third-seeded UCLA in the Sweet Sixteen 86-75 on Friday night, getting 39 points from freshman guard De’Aaron Fox and some redemption after the Bruins went to Kentucky and beat the top-ranked Wildcats earlier this season. Kentucky also won games by single digits over Northern Kentucky and Wichita State in the first two rounds of the tournament, so the Wildcats should be prepared for a close battle against North Carolina. The Tar Heels beat fourth-seeded Butler 92-80 in the Sweet Sixteen and their two leading scorers, Justin Jackson and Joel Berry II, came through with big games, scoring 24 and 26 points, respectively. Kentucky is well aware of the duo as Jackson, a 6-8 junior forward, scored a career-high 34 points against the Wildcats in December, and Berry, a 6-foot junior guard, scored 23.

TV: 5:05 p.m. ET, CBS

LINE HISTORY: North Carolina opened as 2.5-point favorites and the point spread has yet to move off that opening number. The Total hit the board at 158 and has been steadily rising over the past 24 hours and now sits at a lofty 160. Check out the complete line history here.

WHAT SHARPS SAY: “These are two strong offensive teams that are comfortable playing at a fast pace.  However, both teams have efficient defenses as well.  It will be interesting to see if Kentucky tries to run and push the pace with North Carolina, or if the Wildcats slow the game down.  Kentucky has now stayed Under the total in 9 of their past 10 games.” – Covers Experts Steve Merril.

WHAT BOOKS SAY: Check back later for action report.

BETTING STATS:
 

 
ABOUT KENTUCKY: The Tar Heels start four forwards that measure 6-6, 6-8, 6-9 and 6-10, so the Wildcats need to counter that with their superior guard play. Kentucky still needs strong performances in the middle from 6-10 freshman forward Bam Adebayo and 6-9 senior forward Derek Willis, their only two starters down low. They didn’t hold up well against UCLA’s size, combining for 10 points and 12 rebounds, and the Wildcats didn’t receive any help up front off the bench.

ABOUT NORTH CAROLINA:
Like many of the high school All-Americans who sign with North Carolina, Kennedy Meeks wasn’t expected to stick around for four years, but the senior forward made the decision to keep coming back and might be the biggest difference-maker in this game. Meeks is not only 6-10, but weighs 260 pounds and should be able muscle his way loose down low against the Wildcats. He played only 20 minutes before fouling out in the earlier meeting against Kentucky, but still scored 12 points and grabbed seven rebounds, numbers that figure to improve if he can stay on the court.

MATCHUP CHART:



CHEERLEADER BATTLE:
 

 
TRENDS:

* Wildcats are 4-0 ATS in their last 4 NCAA Tournament games as an underdog.
* Under is 7-0 in Wildcats last 7 games vs. a team with a winning % above .600.
* Under is 13-3 in Wildcats last 16 games following a straight up win.
* Under is 6-1 in Tar Heels last 7 games following a ATS win.
* Favorite is 4-1 ATS in the last 5 meetings.

Click here for a complete list of hot and cold trends.

COVERS CONSENSUS: 55 percent of Covers users are taking the chalk with the Tar Heels and the Over is picking up 69 percent of the totals wagers. View full consensus data here.


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