Final 4 Preview - North Carolina vs. Oregon

Network Notebook: Final 4 Preview...North Carolina vs. Oregon

JURY STILL OUT ON WHETHER NORTH CAROLINA IS THE CLASS OF THE BIG DANCE FIELD

When things are clicking for North Carolina, they seem pretty clearly to be the best college basketball team in the country. The catch is...things don't necessarily click for very long when they're clicking!

*North Carolina looked great in the first half vs. Kentucky in last week's Elite 8 showcase. They still needed a buzzer shot to win the game.

*North Carolina had long stretches of dominance vs. Arkansas the weekend before, but found themselves trailing relatively late in the second half anyway.

*North Carolina's late season loss to Virginia, and ACC tournament loss to Duke look worse now than they did at the time given how quickly those conference foes were dispatched in the NCAA's. Heck, "winning the ACC" doesn't seem as impressive now as it did at the end of the regular season given how poorly the whole conference has performed in the Dance.

Carolina had the shortest futures odds entering the tournament, and still does as we enter the final weekend. Can they be trusted to take out Oregon in Saturday's nightcap of the Final Four doubleheader? Should they be favored over Gonzaga if Saturday's favorites both advance to the Monday night finale?

Let's see if JIM HURLEY'S key indicator stats shed any light on the matchup with Oregon...and the overall championship outlook for the North Carolina Tar Heels...

Computer Rankings
North Carolina: #3 at Kenpom, #2 at Sagarin
Oregon: #10 at Kenpom, #10 at Sagarin

The computers still love North Carolina. But, the computers loved the whole ACC and looked pretty ridiculous in that regard through the tournament. Oregon is a top 10 team with both Ken Pomeroy of kenpom.com and Jeff Sagarin of USA Today. Given the margin for error amidst the top teams that we've already seen, that's probably not much of a difference.

Adjusted Offensive Efficiency
North Carolina: 121.5 per 100 possessions (#6 in the nation)
Oregon: 118.6 per 100 possessions (#16 in the nation)

Both teams can score. Oregon's offense deserves more respect than it gets because a slow tempo helps hide how efficient they are. They have a reputation earned in past years for being sloppy with the ball and a bit out of control. This year's team isn't like that. They play clean at a below average tempo. If we assume that Pomeroy has slightly overrated the challenge of playing an ACC-heavy schedule, then these offenses will score very similarly at the same pace.

Adjusted Defensive Efficiency
North Carolina: 93.5 per 100 possessions (#17 in the nation)
Oregon: 93.7 per 100 possessions (#18 in the nation)

Both teams are better defensively than you were probably thinking. Carolina has really climbed the ladder in the second half of the season. When you have athletes hustling to guard people and grab rebounds...you're going to get a lot of stops. Carolina is now playing championship caliber defense even if they weren't in the first half of the season. Oregon is as well. This team wasn't on TV enough during the regular season to crack the national mindset. And, even when they were...everyone talks about the wild floor on their home court rather than skill sets of the team. It's already a lock that a very good defense is going to win the 2017 National Championship. We've been telling you for YEARS on these pages...DEFENSE WINS CHAMPIONSHIPS!

Pace Ranking
North Carolina: #50
Oregon: #241

We've had a lot of "pace battles" this season, so you should be comfortable handicapping this kind of game now. Whoever forces the game at their preferred pace will likely get the straight up victory. Carolina wants to run, and the superior team usually has a better shot at controlling pace. But, playoff style basketball slows down, which plays into the hands of the Ducks. Handicap this particular element properly, and you likely have the ATS winner. (And, as you ponder the full weekend, remember that Carolina's fast pace has been hiding a much-improved defense.)

Against the Spread
North Carolina: 19-15-3
Oregon: 21-15-1

Both teams have been money-makers this season, which is a compliment to both because expectations were high entering the campaign. The problem with liking Carolina here is that they have to run away and hide to cover numbers. That worked vs. Butler, and in a several spots down the stretch of the regular season. They didn't manage to hide vs. either Arkansas or Kentucky. Oregon is also capable of running away and hiding, as we saw vs. Kansas last weekend. They can do that, or just hang close to get the money against a spread in this price range.

JIM HURLEY will be studying this matchup very closely with his team of experts. Generally speaking, you want dogs of this size in important games. There's nothing in our stat preview that would change that assessment. But, there could very well be something from our on-site sources, computer programmers, or friends behind the line that does flip NETWORK to a value play on the favorite. That's the power of our exclusive TEAM HANDICAPPING approach. All precincts report in...then clients get the very best shot at a BIG, JUICY WINNER!

If you're reading this before the weekend, you still have time to build some bankroll for Final Four Saturday. If it's already game day as you're checking in...hook up now with JIM HURLEY for what's shaping up as a PARLAY OF THE YEAR opportunity in the national semifinals! You can always purchase BEST BETS right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions about extended service through the NBA Playoffs or Major League Baseball, please call us in the office at 1-800-323-4453 during normal business hours or Saturday before the games begin.

We're all the way down to the final weekend of the college basketball season. When championships are on the line, YOU NEED WORLD CHAMPION HANDICAPPER JIM HURLEY!

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