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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Friday, December 13, 2013 at 7:00 PM

The first half of North Carolina’s college basketball season has been a wild rollercoaster ride with great heights and very low valleys. It’s like if the guys from the Sonic commercial were riding their car on an actual rollercoaster! Heading into Saturday afternoon’s nationally televised showdown with Kentucky, the Tar Heels have already defeated two national superpowers but lost twice as favorites.

How will handicappers know which team will show up today?!

That’s makes sports betting in Las Vegas so enjoyable and so challenging. You have to know the strengths and weaknesses of the players and coaches…you have to know how the skill sets match up…and you have to know how teams handle pressure.

*North Carolina has played GREAT this year in games they were expected to lose decisively. They beat Louisville, who now sits at #6 in the polls with that being the Cardinals only loss. They beat Michigan State, who now sits at #5 in the polls with that being the only Spartans loss. Louisville and Michigan State are 15-0 when not playing North Carolina, and would be neck-and-neck for #1!

*North Carolina has laid giant eggs when they were supposed to be the bully. You’ll see in a moment that they lost at home to Belmont, and then on the road as a clear favorite against Alabama-Birmingham.

Saturday, we have a home game against Kentucky that brings together both dynamics in a way. It’s very easy to get sky high for Kentucky. They may have dropped to #11 because of two early losses. But, the Wildcats are still on the short list of likely Final Four teams come March. Carolina’s kids would love to be able to tell people they beat Louisville, Michigan State, and Kentucky before conference play started!

Yet, this time there are expectations. They won’t catch a superpower napping. Carolina is back to being the hunted rather than the hunter, a role they haven’t thrived in against non-cupcakes.

Handicappers will have to think through that challenging reality, while also keeping in mind what both teams have done this year when not playing total creampuffs.

 

KENTUCKY VS. QUALITY

Kentucky (+4) lost to Michigan State 78-74 (in Chicago)

Kentucky (-6) beat Providence 79-65 (in Brooklyn)

Kentucky (-4) lost to Baylor (67-62 in Dallas)

Kentucky (-11) beat Boise State 70-55

Only four real testers so far for this young team…and Boise State barely qualifies given that the game was in Lexington and Boise State. Sometimes it takes Kentucky awhile to blend all of their young phenoms together. Sometimes the blend never really happens. A great performance in Chapel Hill could get things moving in the right direction in authoritative fashion.

 

NORTH CAROLINA VS. QUALITY

North Carolina (-14) lost at home to Belmont 83-80

North Carolina (-8) beat Richmond 82-72 (at Mohegan Sun)

North Carolina (+10) beat Louisville 93-84 (at Mohegan Sun)

North Carolina (-7) lost at UAB 63-59

North Carolina (+10) won at Michigan State 79-65

There it is in numerical form…covers by 19 and 24 as double digit underdogs to superpowers…but non-covers by 17 and 11 to teams who would be spoilers at best in the postseason. Backwards!

JIM HURLEY may or may not be posting an official selection in this game. That’s still being debated as this article goes up online. You can purchase the final word for Saturday right here at the website with your credit card in the morning before the early games get started. We’re looking at matchups like Arizona/Michigan and Notre Dame/Indiana in college hoops, as well as Army/Navy in college football (see yesterday’s NOTEBOOK for a preview!).

If you have any questions about this weekend’s busy sports schedule, or combination packages for football and basketball that take you through the Super Bowl and March Madness, call us in the office Saturday morning at 1-888-777-4155.

We head back to the NFL Sunday and Monday. We’ll crunch our preview numbers for Cincinnati at Pittsburgh in the Sunday report. You’ll be watching that game in prime time on NBC. On Monday it’s the very interesting Baltimore/Detroit game on ESPN that’s must-win for both teams.

Wow…the stretch run of the NFL…a taste of March Madness in December in the hoops…plus the Army/Navy classic…WIN WHILE YOU WATCH all weekend long thanks to JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK!

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