Saint Peter's vs UNC: College Basketball Prediction (3/27/22)
The Saint Peter’s Peacocks and North Carolina Tar Heels will face off in an Elite Eight matchup at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Both of these teams are looking to make continue their Cinderella runs as 15 and 8 seeds, respectively. Saint Peter’s is currently on a 10-game win streak, including victories over Kentucky, Murray State, and Purdue in the NCAA Tournament. North Carolina won 9 of their last 10 games with victories over Marquette, Baylor, and UCLA in March Madness. These are two of the most surprising teams left in the tournament, and you’ll find my favorite bet for Saint Peter’s vs UNC below.
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Saint Peter’s has been undervalued the entire season, as they’ve been elite against the spread (ATS) thus far. They enter this game with a 23-9 ATS record, covering in 71.9% of their games. They’re also covering by an average of 4.1 points per game. Most importantly, the Peacocks have covered in 11 of their last 12 games, including each of their last 10.
North Carolina hasn’t been quite as successful, as they boast a 19-16-1 ATS record this season. They’ve covered in 54.3% of their games, and they’re covering by an average of 0.8 points per game. With that being said, the Tar Heels have found success recently, covering in 7 of their last 8 games.
This is one of the weirdest games to predict because, by all metrics, Saint Peter’s shouldn’t be here. They should’ve struggled with Purdue’s Zach Edey, who ended the game with only 2 rebounds at 7’4.
With that being said, they struggled against Oscar Tshiebwe in the opening round. The Kentucky big man ended the game with 30 points and 16 rebounds in an 85-79 overtime loss. Armando Bacot is one of the best bigs in the nation, specifically in terms of rebounding. He’s double-doubled in each of UNC’s three tournament games, and I’m expecting that once again today. Saint Peter’s doesn’t have the size or talent to slow him down in the paint.
The other struggle for Saint Peter’s will be the versatility of North Carolina’s offense. Caleb Love is getting all of the recognition after scoring 30 points in a win over UCLA. He also posted 23 against Marquette. With that being said, UNC has four players that have the ability to take over a game in different ways.
Love shot only 1-6 against Baylor before fouling out. His lack of production didn’t matter, though, as RJ Davis scored 30 points. He wasn’t needed as much in the Marquette or UCLA games, although he could contribute double-digit points on any given night regardless of who’s taking over the offense. It just shows that when one guard is struggling, they have another that can take over the game.
Furthermore, Brady Manek is a player with the ability to lead the team in scoring in any given game. Keep in mind, Manek doesn’t have the ability to find his own shot like Love or Davis, but he’s an elite option once the defense’s attention is taken elsewhere. Manek scored 28 and 26 points against Marquette and Baylor before “cooling off” with 13 points against UCLA.
North Carolina essentially runs a five-man rotation, meaning there will always be multiple players that can take over a game on the floor. If Saint Peter’s chooses to take one away, the others have the ability to step up.
With that being said, I expect the Peacocks to try to slow this game down quite a bit. North Carolina will be able to push its own pace, but it’s unlikely Saint Peter’s chooses to match that pace.
I firmly believe North Carolina walks away with the win in this game. I’m not as confident in them beating the spread against the second-best ATS team in the country. The spread is set at -8, giving us a couple of points as a buffer even if they do beat it. I certainly could see Saint Peter’s Cinderella ending with a double-digit point loss here, but I’m backing them to keep it in the single-digits. For the price, I love North Carolina to win by 1-10 points today.
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