How to Bet UNC-Louisville, Plus Three Other Evening Matchups

How to Bet UNC-Louisville, Plus Three Other Evening Matchups article feature image

Louisville forward Anas Mahmoud and UNC forward Luke Maye battle in last year’s meeting.

In my Saturday evening betting preview, I will take a look at the following four games:

  • UTA at Louisiana -10.5 (8 p.m. ET)
  • UNC at Louisville -1 (8:15 p.m. ET)
  • Montana at Idaho -1 (10 p.m. ET)
  • Oregon at UCLA -3.5 (10:15 p.m. ET)

Follow me on twitter @jorcubsdan for in-game analysis, injury updates, and second half predictions.

UT Arlington at Louisiana Lafayette (-10.5)

8 p.m. ET

Frankly, few teams in the country have been as disappointing as UT Arlington. The Mavs were a preseason mid-major darling — and for good reason. Erick Neal, one of the most electric point guards in the country, and Kevin Hervey, a tweener 4 with fringe NBA lottery potential, both returned. That nucleus was surrounded by 7-foot Virginia Tech transfer Johnny Hamilton and a supporting cast of seniors. In fact, the Mavs had more returning experience than any team in the country. Instead of dominating the SBC, UTA dropped to 7-7 after a bad loss to Louisiana Monroe. Reports of off-court issues have been rampant, which hasn’t helped matters on the court.

ULL, meanwhile, has dominated the SBC, outside of a recent humiliating loss at Georgia State. The Cajuns have the league’s most efficient offense and defense, and they’re loaded with high-major talent from point guard to center. The Cajuns limited the Mavs to .87 points per possession (ppp) in the first meeting, overcoming a double-digit second-half deficit to coast to victory despite a 27% turnover rate and 8-of-26 shooting from 3.

While ULL struggled at times with UTA’s ball-line defense that focuses on denying entry passes, it found ways to penetrate past a constantly gambling UTA perimeter. ULL also had success on the break against an indifferent UTA transition defense.

UTA’s Kevin Hervey did cause problems for ULL’s defense, but the Cajuns focused on swarming Neal on ball screens to obscure his passing lanes and turn him into a shooter. Neal obliged by chucking up 12 threes, only hitting four. The Cajuns’ defensive dominance at home, combined with UTA’s inability to keep them out of transition, should turn this into a blowout.

PICK: ULL -10.5

North Carolina at Louisville (-1)

8:15 p.m. ET

It looks like Deng Adel will suit up for the Cardinals tonight. He is absolutely essential if Louisville is going to knock off the Heels tonight.

Defensively, Louisville has a few advantages. First, the Cards play elite transition defense. Per hoop-math, they allow the nation’s fourth-lowest FGA rate in transition. In the rare instances when Louisville’s opponents do run, the Cardinals only allow .886 ppp. Per Synergy, that grades out in the 98th percentile nationally. UNC is known for its free-form secondary break offense, as the Heels attempt shots in transition at the 19th highest rate in the country.

Second, Ray Spalding and Anas Mahmoud (pictured above, left) are extremely versatile and active defensively in Louisville’s frontcourt. With Roy Williams going to a smaller lineup centered around Cam Johnson, teams must have bigs that can chase he and Luke Maye (pictured above, right) out of the paint, where they both set screens and then subsequently cut to the rim. The Cardinals’ frontcourt is capable of doing just that.

Offensively, Louisville is actually hitting jump shots this year. That is key against a UNC defense that typically underscreens to induce jump shots to initiate the break off a hopeful miss. While Louisville doesn’t attempt a lot of 3s, it’s nailing them at a 39% clip in ACC play. The return of Adel will also help stretch out the compact UNC defense. Look for Spalding to have a big offensive performance as the roll man tonight; he’s a matchup nightmare for the defensively-challenged Maye.

The biggest concern for the Cardinals will be defensive rebounding, which has been an issue all season. In what figures to be a tight game, UNC could get key extra possessions late by dominating the offensive glass, as the Heels so often do.

PICK: Louisville -1

Montana at Idaho (-1)

10 p.m. ET

Montana is on the quick Thursday-to-Saturday road turnaround in the Big Sky after being handed its first league loss at EWU. That means little prep time for an Idaho team that runs a complicated system on both ends of the floor and presents a few match-up issues for the Grizzlies.

Under Don Verlin, Idaho’s defense has been a unique mix of pack line and morphing 3-2 match -p zone. It allows very little in transition, preferring to hustle back to set up its complex half-court defense. Naturally, the Vandals are susceptible to teams that can shoot from the outside. That’s decidedly not a strength of the Grizzlies, who prefer to attack the rim relentlessly via Mike Oguine penetration and Jamar Akoh post feeds.

Unless Ahmaad Rorie gets red hot from outside, Montana will suffer its first losing streak of the season. Rorie is a streaky shooter, having been mired in a 4-of-24 slump from 3 before hitting 4-of-6 in a losing effort against EWU.

Offensively, Idaho basically runs the legendary Stew Morrill’s playbook (Verlin was a long time assistant of the offensive mastermind). The base of the offense is called “Dribble,” featuring Vic Sanders and Perrion Callandret in a baseline runner set. You know it’s good offense when the Golden State Warriors copy it.

Idaho has a multitude of set plays that are impossible to prepare for on the back end of the quick road trip. The Vandals score a blistering 1.25 ppp on the Saturday side of the Thurs-Sat Big Sky flip. The schemes on both ends of the floor should give the Grizz fits.

PICK: Idaho -1

Oregon at UCLA (-3.5)

10:15 p.m. ET

This is a must win for Oregon’s at-large hopes, as it let a big road win at USC slip through its fingers on Thursday. UCLA also can’t really afford to lose this one for its resume.

UCLA has a decided advantage in the backcourt on the offensive end. Aaron Holiday and Jaylen Hands could potentially eat Elijah Brown and Payton Pritchard alive tonight. Both Holiday and Hands battled a ridiculous foul situation in the first meeting in Eugene (a three-point Oregon win), but the Bruins still scored 1.23 ppp. The Ducks’ backcourt defends poorly in pick and roll, and they’re just mediocre against transition, which UCLA should exploit.

Dana Altman switches defenses between man and zone, often within the same possession, as well as any coach in the country. He will throw out a lot of zone traps, as well. The young Bruins like Hands and Kris Wilkes will be more prepared the second time around for the morphing defensive looks. Plus, the new faces in Eugene still have yet to fully grasp a lot of the schemes, causing Altman to really simplify Oregon’s defense. Additionally, Thomas Welsh’s savvy moves on the block should give the athletic (but young) Kenny Wooten issues all night. Wooten grades out as a subpar post defender.

Oregon’s MiKyle McIntosh and Troy Brown scored at will against the Bruins in the first meeting. That prompted Steve Alford to go small, sending GG Golomon to a reserve role and shifting Wilkes to the 4 and Prince Ali to the 3. That lineup still can’t defend the length and versatility of Brown and McIntosh. I don’t anticipate much defense in Pauley tonight.

PICKS: UCLA -3.5, Over 152