Though North Carolina narrowly avoided disaster against Arkansas, and Butler rolled through the first two rounds of the 2017 NCAA tournament, the top-seeded Tar Heels are still regarded as one of the biggest favorites of all the Sweet 16 matchups.
Here’s a closer look at all the odds for Friday night’s matchup, as well as a prediction for the outcome:
UNC vs. Butler Sweet 16 Odds
Spread: UNC (-7), per OddsShark.com
Moneyline: UNC (-325); Butler (+270)
UNC Record Against the Spread: 18-16-1
Butler Record Against the Spread: 20-12
Head-to-Head History: Butler is 2-0; November 20, 2012, November 26, 2014
Preview & Prediction
No. 1 on teams’ scouting reports for North Carolina, likely in big, bold letters with danger signs drawn all around it: Frontcourt.
The Tar Heels’ interior is made up of grown men. Kennedy Meeks, 6-foot-10 and 260. Isaiah Hicks, 6-foot-9 and 242. Tony Bradley, 6-foot-10 (with a wingspan that goes for days) and 240. Luke Maye, 6-foot-8 and 235. Even Justin Jackson and Theo Pinson, who play primarily on the wing, are 6-foot-8 and 6-foot-6.
This frontcourt is big, talented and deep. It’s the reason why the Heels grab a whopping 42.2 percent of their own misses (first in the country in offensive rebounding percentage) and shoot 51.0 percent from inside the arc.
That’s bad news for Butler.
The Bulldogs’ frontcourt is going to be massively undersized against Carolina. Tyler Wideman, at 6-foot-8 and 240, is the team’s lone true big man who plays significant minutes, while Kelan Martin (6-foot-7, 220) is more of a stretch four and Andrw Chrabascz is just 6-foot-7 and 220.
Chris Holtmann’s squad is solid on the defensive glass (68th in the country) but is just 231st in two-point field-goal percentage defense. That spells trouble against arguably the best frontcourt in the country.
The great equalizer, of course, is the three-pointer. Butler can make it rain from deep (16-of-34 through the first two rounds), and as we’ve seen in Carolina’s last three losses (two to Duke, one to Virginia), they are susceptible when the other team gets hot from beyond the arc. The Heels allowed opponents to shoot 33-of-68 (48.53 percent) from three-point land in those losses.
Alas, while Butler’s efficient offense could prove to be troublesome for Roy Williams and Co., the Tar Heels’ advantage on the inside will ultimately prove to be too much for the Bulldogs to spring the upset.
Prediction: UNC 76, Butler 71
In what has a good chance to be the game of the tournament, college basketball blue-bloods Kentucky and UCLA meet for a spot in Elite 8.