College Basketball Odds, Picks for North Carolina vs. Ohio State

College Basketball Odds, Picks for North Carolina vs. Ohio State article feature image

Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images. Pictured: Leaky Black (UNC)

North Carolina vs. Ohio State Odds

Saturday, Dec. 17
3 p.m. ET
North Carolina Odds
-110o / -110u
Ohio State Odds
-110o / -110u
Odds via DraftKings. Get up-to-the-minute college basketball odds here.

North Carolina and No. 23 Ohio State square off at Madison Square Garden on Saturday in the opening game of the CBS Sports Classic.

The Tar Heels look to secure their first Quadrant I victory and enter on a two-game win streak. The former No. 1 overall team in college hoops has struggled despite their experience and have just one win away from their home floor.

Ohio State, on the other hand, enters 7-2 with a restructured roster from a season ago. The Buckeyes won their Big Ten season opener against Rutgers on a buzzer-beater nearly two weeks ago.

Will the long hiatus prove to be too much for this Ohio State squad, or will the Buckeyes continue to roll against a struggling North Carolina team still looking for a momentous win?

North Carolina Tar Heels

Entering the season as the No. 1 team in the country, North Carolina has struggled to begin the season. Against teams ranked inside the Kenpom Top 50, the Tar Heels are 0-4.

Expectations were too high for a UNC team that made a Cinderella-like run in the NCAA Tournament. Despite returning a majority of their production, this was an inconsistent offense that relied heavily on streaky shooters and Armando Bacot's presence around the rim.

Bacot played through injury against Indiana but was largely ineffective and missed North Carolina's ACC opener against Virginia Tech. But since his return, the walking double-double seems to be back at full health.

There's a lot to love about this North Carolina team. While they are not a good 3-point shooting squad — 255th in country — the Tar Heels are top 20 in average height and Division I experience.

The backcourt of juniors RJ Davis and Caleb Love do not turn the ball over and the run-and-gun UNC offense is extremely effective at attacking inside. North Carolina ranks 13th in free-throw rate.

The addition of Pete Nance (Northwestern) to replace Brady Manek figures to be a large help. Nance is a 6-foot-11 forward who can stretch the floor (40% from 3) but is also aggressive around the rim.

Defensively, this is a team that struggles both forcing turnovers (314th) and defending the 3 ball (211th). As long as Bacot avoids foul trouble, the Tar Heels will have a consistent force around the rim that deters opponents away.

This Tar Heel team doesn't foul a lot, they've just struggled to cause any disruption and create fast break chances.

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Ohio State Buckeyes

Ohio State is a very fascinating team. Chris Holtmann has brought in 10 new players and returns just two Buckeyes from last year's squad.

Zed Key is back for his junior season alongside Justice Sueing, who suffered a season-ending injury two games into the 2022 season. Yet, a roster turnover like this hasn't led to struggles. Holtmann has brought in a mixture of transfers and freshmen to pair alongside the duo of Key and Sueing, and the results have been successful thus far.

While chemistry is still developing, Ohio State does rank 64th in Division I experience. Sean McNeil (West Virginia), Isaac Likekele (Oklahoma State) and Tanner Holden (Wright State) all decided to play their senior year up in Columbus.

The Buckeyes enter off an 11-day hiatus, recently taking down Rutgers on a buzzer-beating 3. This is a meticulous offense that doesn't turn the ball over and is aggressive around the rim. They rank sixth in offensive rebounding rate and 50th in eFG%.

Key is the star of the team, ranking 11th in eFG%, ninth in offensive rebounding rate and seventh in 2-point percentage (76.7). He is a force around the rim despite being 6-foot-8 and was able to produce against two strong interior teams in Rutgers and Duke (21.5 ppg).

Freshman Brice Sensabaugh has been a revelation off the bench for the Buckeyes, too. He's averaged 14.1 ppg and is shooting 50 percent on 3s through nine games and is used on 29.5 percent of possessions when on the floor.

Ohio State relies on athleticism and while they shoot 37 percent from beyond the arc, they rank 282nd in 3PA/FGA. This is also a very iso-heavy offense, ranking 319th in assist rate.

Like North Carolina, the Buckeyes' defense does not force many turnovers. But unlike their Saturday counterpart, Ohio State's defense ranks 38th in eFG% and is a top 30 defense defending the 3 ball.

While the Buckeyes lack true size around the rim, there's no shortage of length on the perimeter. Aside from freshman Bruce Thornton, no player is smaller than 6-foot-4.

In four matchups against Power 5 opponents, Ohio State's defense struggled around the rim, giving up a 56% clip on 2-point attempts. They were able to mitigate damage against Texas Tech and Rutgers because of their 3-point defense, but the same couldn't be said against San Diego State. And when they were tasked with Duke's trio of bigs inside, OSU struggled.

North Carolina vs. Ohio State Betting Pick

It's been a tough start to the season for North Carolina, but this is a huge game for Hubert Davis and the Tar Heels.

Expectations were too high to begin the season because of the NCAA Tournament run, but since their four-straight losses in the middle of nonconference play, UNC has fallen back down to Earth and enter as a near-PK against Ohio State.

These are two of the Top 10 offenses — adjusted efficiency wise — per Kenpom, but I think the edge lies with the Tar Heels here. Similar to my cap when Ohio State faced off with Duke, the interior poses as too heavy a threat for Key and co.

Bacot and Nance both start at 6-foot-11 and even Leaky Black is a stout 6-foot-9. The trio are taller than the Buckeyes' tallest big, Key, and should dominate the glass on both ends of the floor Saturday afternoon.

North Carolina's offense thrives from attacking the rim and either finishing or drawing contact. That's how you take down an Ohio State squad that's length poses more of a threat on the perimeter than it does inside.

Neither team forces turnovers — both sit outside the Top 300 — which should play favorably into Love's and Davis' hands. Both are erratic but talented scorers.

I trust the Tar Heels to get the job done inside Madison Square Garden, bouncing back with their first Quadrant I win of the season.

Pick: North Carolina ML (-120 or Better)

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