College Basketball Odds, Expert Picks, Prediction for North Carolina vs. Alabama (Sunday, Nov. 27)
Photo by Soobum Im/Getty Images. Pictured: Brandon Miller (Alabama)
- The battle for third place in the Phil Knight Invitational is between No. 1 UNC and No. 18 Alabama.
- Can the Tar Heels fix their defensive issues and limit the Tide in transition?
- Matt Cox breaks it all down before providing you with his best bet for the game.
North Carolina vs. Alabama Odds
|North Carolina Odds
-105o / -115u
-105o / -115u
In this year's loaded Phil Knight Invitational field, there's no shame in taking home the bronze medal.
That's what's at stake when the Tar Heels and the Tide hit the hardwood this afternoon in Portland.
North Carolina, the reigning national champion runner-up, suffered an eerily similar collapse Friday as the one that doomed its national title hopes in March. The Heels let a pesky Iowa State team mount a furious late-game rally, and a comfy seven-point lead evaporated over the final four minutes.
Alabama's path to the consolation bracket, on the other hand, was swift and certain. A surging UConn squad dispatched the Crimson Tide with conviction on Friday — the outcome was never in question.
Now the two meet with a golden opportunity to claim a critical Quadrant I victory. Both teams have lofty seeding aspirations next March and a neutral-site victory would be a sterling addition to any NCAA tournament resume.
Truthfully, if the Tar Heels avoid a dreadful 3-for-18 shooting performance from behind the arc against Iowa State, they likely march on to the title game.
Nevertheless, poor late-game execution — particularly on the defensive end of the floor — is becoming a recurring wart for this talent and experience rich roster.
Through six games this season, UNC's defensive deficiencies bear a striking resemblance to last year's early ebbs and flows. Remember when Brown hung 50 points on UNC in the first half last season? Granted, North Carolina prevailed in that game, but it brought to light serious defensive issues.
As the season progressed, those cracks were slowly sealed up, laying the foundation for that magical postseason run.
This year feels like Deja Vu. UNC's Adjusted Defensive Efficiency now ranks 50th overall, a quantum drop from KenPom's preseason ranking of 13.
Head coach Hubert Davis has reportedly challenged his older veterans multiple times, but the results are still MIA.
Alabama knows the perils of a leaky defense. Head coach Nate Oats bemoaned his team's lack of tenacity and physicality on the defensive side of the ball last year.
Offseason quotes incited the same narrative as the Tide turned the page to the 2023 campaign: a recommitment to defending and rebounding.
To date, Oats and his re-tooled roster have delivered on that prophecy. Despite surrendering 1.11 points per possession to Connecticut on Friday, Alabama still boasts the 19th-best defense in America, per KenPom.
Freshman phenom Brandon Miller is aiding this resurgence, while making one head-turning play after another on the other end.
Fellow frontline mates Noah Clowney, Noah Gurley and Charles Bediako are categorically improved defensively this season.
The real wildcard is the recent return of Jahvon Quinerly, who many thought would be on the shelf until January after tearing his ACL in the NCAA tournament last season.
He looked tremendous against Michigan State in the opening round of the event, but then looked rusty the very next day against UConn.
Quinerly's gravitational pull on the game gives him unchecked power to swing a result in or against Bama, based on how consistent and efficient he is on offense — and how locked in he is on defense.
North Carolina vs. Alabama Betting Pick
North Carolina's defensive soft spots are less about the on-ball defense and more about off-ball coverage. This season, multiple opponents — notably Portland and Charleston — cooked the Tar Heels with backdoor cuts and crafty off-ball action.
The Heels are also susceptible in transition, which is where the Crimson Tide's breakneck transition attack could pounce.
Roll with the Tide up to -2.
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