North Carolina vs. Ohio State Prediction, Picks, Odds (12/17/22)

North Carolina went from the top ranked team in the nation to unranked in a matter of weeks. Hubert Davis says his team won’t panic, but another loss before ACC play would be a troubling setback. Ohio State is coming off a win over Rutgers at the buzzer and has losses only to Duke and San Diego State this season. Who comes away with a big neutral-site win?

Let’s take a look at the odds and make some picks and predictions for Saturday’s game at Madison Square Garden.

North Carolina vs. Ohio State Odds

North Carolina enters as a slight 1.5-point favorite in this neutral site matchup.

The Tar Heels are still favorites heading into this one despite their early-season struggles. Considering how well North Carolina can score, it’s an understandable line. With that being said, anyone betting on the Tar Heels is betting on potential. A bet on North Carolina is a bet on the expectation that this team is starting to put the pieces together. Is that a fair expectation?

North Carolina vs. Ohio State Prediction & Pick

Defenses will determine this battle of great offenses, it seems. Ohio State is almost certainly going to score. Based on what other teams have done to the Tar Heels, the Buckeyes should be able to score in the range of 75-80 points. It’ll then be up to Ohio State’s defense to perform better than it did against San Diego State and force Caleb Love to take some of the awkward shots he’s been taking early in the season.

The strong rebounding ability of Ohio State will help offset the Armando Bacot advantage for UNC. The Tar Heels have the experience advantage, but that hasn’t proven to be a big help early in the season.

Until we see proof from North Carolina that they’re on their way to fixing the issues we’ve seen through the first month of the season, it makes more sense to take Ohio State and the point. The Tar Heels’ best win came against Charleston a month ago. They should figure it out eventually, but keep in mind it took three full months last season.

North Carolina vs. Ohio State Key Matchups

Defense has been one of the biggest issues for North Carolina this season. The Tar Heels are 287th in points allowed, though that figure is slightly inflated by a 4OT game against Alabama. UNC allowed 77 points to Indiana, 80 to Virginia Tech, and 86 to Charleston. Iowa State, which scored 53 against UConn and 56 against Iowa, posted 70 points against this team. The defense was fine against Georgia Tech and Citadel recently, but that doesn’t say much.

Considering Ohio State averages nearly 80 points per game and has performed well on the offensive end against some solid defenses, North Carolina’s defense will be the story of this game. Will it get trampled by another tough opponent? The Tar Heels turned it around last season, but not until mid-February. It’s not a guarantee their raw talent will be able to carry them against Ohio State.

North Carolina can score. The Tar Heels average close to 81 points per game and do plenty of work in the paint thanks to Armando Bacot. Bacot helps make this UNC team a rebounding force as well.

The biggest issue with the Tar Heels on the offensive side of the ball has been Caleb Love. UNC wouldn’t have won five games in the NCAA Tournament without Love’s excellence last season, but now the junior is shooting just 28.8% from beyond the arc. Shot selection has been poor, and the Tar Heels don’t have enough shooters to make up for his struggles.

Unless Love morphs back into what he used to be, Ohio State has the shooting advantage. Transfer Sean McNeil and freshmen Bruce Thornton and Brice Sensabaugh have shot well from beyond the arc early in the season. While the freshmen are a wild card, you would think they’ll only improve as they get more comfortable. The experience of Justice Sueing and Zed Key helps balance out the inexperience of Thornton and Sensabaugh.

Led by Key, the Buckeyes also have the rebounding to match North Carolina, though they don’t have a frontcourt presence as dominant as Bacot. Ohio State has better defensive numbers than UNC, but it’s worth noting the defense hasn’t held up as well against tougher competition (San Diego State, Duke). For as many questions as North Carolina has right now, it’s possible the Tar Heels come in and just outscore Ohio State. That might be true for any game UNC plays.

Dan is a lifelong sports fan and graduate of Boston University. He’s covered several sports on Instagram since he was 12 and now writes about everything from betting trends to breaking news for Lineups.

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