Submitted by Jim Hurley on Tuesday, December 17, 2013 at 7:00 PM
The #14 North Carolina Tar Heels have done something this year that is truly incredible. They’ve defeated Louisville, Michigan State, and Kentucky in short order…three of four teams who were on everyone’s short list to make a run at the national championship this year.
But…if they’ve done that and are still only #14…then you know something else must have gone wrong! A home loss to Belmont and a road loss to Alabama-Birmingham has shown that the Tar Heels are inconsistent. The talent is there to beat anybody. But, a lack of focus can rise up and bite them at the worst possible time.
The question for handicappers Wednesday Night is how a team like Texas will fall onto the spectrum of extremes. The unranked Longhorns certainly aren’t one of the big boys right now. They’re still making more headlines in football than in basketball by a mile. But, this is a nice sleeper team that’s made some strides this season.
Will North Carolina take this game seriously?
Will North Carolina see a disappointing replay of what happened vs. Belmont or UAB?
Let’s review what Texas has done its toughest games this year to get a sense of what the Carolina players have been watching on game films the past few days…
TEXAS AT SINGLE DIGIT SPREADS
Texas (-6) beat South Alabama 84-77
Texas (+7) lost to BYU 86-82
Texas (-4.5) beat DePaul 77-59
Texas (-8.5) beat Vanderbilt 70-64
Texas (-1.5) won at Temple 81-80 in overtime
The BYU and DePaul games were in Kansas City. Temple was the only true road game. And, the Longhorns blew a big lead in that game and were lucky to get out of Philly with a victory.
On the whole, that’s 4-1 straight up but 2-3 ATS. The market has largely been in synch with Texas given the closeness of the margins to the pointspreads outside the DePaul blowout. Still, that’s a collection of teams you probably haven’t been paying much attention to. And, it’s not like Texas has been on TV much in a spot where you were likely to watch. Let’s go to the experts we monitor during March Madness for a little more guidance. Here’s where Texas and North Carolina rank with Jeff Sagarin of USA Today and college basketball guru Ken Pomeroy:
Texas: #61 in Sagarin, #65 in Kenpom
North Carolina: #11 in Sagarin, #11 in Kenpom
Even though Texas is 9-1 this season, they’re still not even rated as a Dance caliber team by either source! That makes this a clear statement game for the Longhorns, who’d like to show off what they think is improvement to a national audience. For North Carolina, this is definitely a spot that could catch them napping. Kids don’t get their juices flowing for #61! To give you a frame of reference for those NC losses:
Belmont: #76 in Sagarin, #80 in Kenpom
UAB: #93 in Sagarin, #83 in Kenpom
Texas currently ranks slightly better than the blind spots that snuck up on the Heels. If Carolina is flat…well, Texas is probably better than both Belmont and UAB! If Carolina shows up to play, the Horns are well behind the national powers that have already been vanquished.
Texas/North Carolina may or may not show up on the final slate for JIM HURLEY. He’s also looking at San Francisco/St. Johns on Fox Sports 1, and Stanford/Connecticut on ESPN2, as well as several other gams on a busy basketball schedule. Hey, don’t forget Indiana/Miami on ESPN in the NBA!
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Back with you in the NOTEBOOK Thursday to preview UCLA/Duke. There’s no NFL game this Thursday. We’ll begin our bowl previews Friday with an early look at USC/Fresno State in the Las Vegas Bowl. Saturday we’ll cover the prime time meeting between Tulane and Louisiana Lafayette in the New Orleans Bowl.
In the meantime, it’s a BANKROLL BUILDING BASKETBALL BONANZA right here at JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK!