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Men's College Basketball Betting Preview: Furman-North Carolina, Alabama-Memphis

No. 6 Alabama travels to face a reeling Memphis squad, while North Carolina looks to stay undefeated at home. Our experts make their bets.

North Carolina, a surging blue blood program, and No. 6 Alabama, one of the hottest teams in the country, are on the docket Tuesday night.

My guest pickers and I have been perfectly average a few weeks into the season and we’re looking to get up above .500 tonight.

My colleague Kevin Sweeney rejoins me for his third stint as a guest picker.

Season record: 12-12
Guest pickers: 4-4

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Dec 1, 2021; Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels forward Armando Bacot (5) and guard Leaky Black (1) and guard R.J. Davis (4) react on the sidelines in the second half at Dean E. Smith Center.

Furman Paladins (7-3) vs. North Carolina Tar Heels (7-2)

Time: 7 p.m. ET, ESPN2
Spread: Furman +10 (-110) | North Carolina -10 (-110)
Over/Under: Under 153.5 (-110) | Over 153.5 (-110)
Moneyline: Furman (+410) | North Carolina (-549)

If anything, Furman is entertaining. The Paladins scored 118 points in their season opener, and average 83.9 points per game. They beat Louisville on the road in overtime, 80-72, earlier this season. Furman negates that offensive advantage with a poor defensive unit that is ranked 224th on and allows 75.9 PPG.

With a great offense and bad defense, the Paladins allow opponents to stick around. They’ve already gone to overtime four times and are 3-1 in said games, including a double-overtime affair. The team relies on three volume scorers—Alex Hunter, Jalen Swanson and Mike Bothwell all average more than than 16 PPG. The Paladins distribute the ball extremely well, ranking fifth in the nation with 18.8 assists per game.

The Tar Heels are 5-0 in Chapel Hill and 2-2 in road/neutral games. Following back-to-back losses to top-25 teams in November, UNC rattled off four straight wins of at least 17 points or more, including a win over then-No. 24 Michigan. The offense has slowed down from its fast start, while the defense has steadily improved.

North Carolina has a balanced cast of scorers, led by sophomore guard Caleb Love (16.9 PPG). Four other Tar Heels average at least 10 PPG, and the team’s three-point percentage is the sixth-best mark in the country (41.7).

Kyle Wood's Picks:

Moneyline/Spread pick: North Carolina -11.5

North Carolina is in a groove the past two weeks, and won’t let a lesser opponent stop its upward climb on its home court. Though UNC’s strength is offense, not defense, it’s much better on that side of the ball than Furman. The Tar Heels' deep cast of scorers will take advantage and simply outscore the Paladins’ uber-efficient unit. Furman has been great in close games so far, but this one won’t be particularly close.

Over/Under pick: Under 153.5

Furman games have hit the over seven times with two pushes. That changes against UNC, the best team Furman will have played. The Tar Heels held Michigan to 51 points in Chapel Hill a few weeks ago. It’s difficult to see Furman getting into the 70s, which they’ll almost certainly need in order for this game to go over.

Guest Picker Kevin Sweeney’s Picks:

Moneyline/Spread pick: North Carolina -10

Furman has been a giant killer of sorts under Bob Richey, taking down Louisville earlier this season and playing incredibly tight games with the likes of Auburn, Cincinnati and Alabama in recent seasons. With that in mind, don’t be surprised if this one stays close for a long time. Richey is an excellent game-planner, and he has a highly skilled roster loaded with smart offensive players. The difference in this game is UNC’s size on the interior. The Paladins will have no answer for Dawson Garcia or Armando Bacot, and the Tar Heels will pull away late.

Over/Under pick: Over 153.5

Neither team is very good on the defensive end, and both teams’ weaknesses on that end of the floor are strengths of their opponent. UNC’s defensive awareness has been lackluster so far, and Furman’s cutting and motion should cause a lot of problems there. But Furman’s weakness lies in defending the rim, where Carolina thrives.

Memphis Tigers guard Emoni Bates shows his frustration as he walks down the court during their 74-72 loss to the Murray State Racers at FedExForum on Friday, December 10, 2021.

No. 6 Alabama Crimson Tide (8-1) vs. Memphis Tigers (5-4)

Time: 9 p.m. ET, ESPN
Spread: Alabama -3.5 (-110) | Memphis +3.5 (-110)
Over/Under: Under 154.5 (-110) | Over 154.5 (-110)
Moneyline: Alabama (-175) | Memphis (+145)

The Crimson Tide beat the No. 3 and No. 14 teams one week apart. Alabama has one blemish on its resume—a four-point loss on a neutral court to Iona. Otherwise, ‘Bama basketball is about as dominant as ‘Bama football. Nate Oats’ squad averages the seventh-most points per game (86) and plays good enough defense to keep opponents at arm’s length.

Junior Jaden Shackelford leads the team in scoring (19.6 PPG), rebounding (6.9 RPG) and shoots 45.6% from deep. He tallied 28 points in a win over Gonzaga, and made 16 threes in his last three games. Beyond Shackelford, the Crimson Tide are deep. Six others contribute at least seven points per game, and Alabama averages the 18th-most rebounds per game despite no player averaging seven boards per game.

Memphis began the season 5-0 but is now riding a four-game losing streak entering its toughest game to date. Its last three losses came by a combined seven points. The offense is not what it was to begin the season when it scored 89 or more points in the first three games. Freshman Emoni Bates’ struggles are tied to the Tigers’ recent losses. He leads the team in scoring with 11.2 PPG on 38.8% shooting from the field.

The Tigers have been better on defense than on offense. Their length has them tied for 40th in the country in steals per game (9.2) and second in blocks per game (7.7). Freshman center Jalen Duren anchors the defense, blocking three shots per game with his 6-foot-11 frame. Memphis yields 68.2 PPG.

Kyle Wood's Picks:

Moneyline/Spread pick: Alabama -3.5

Alabama has handled way better teams than Memphis in the last two weeks. Memphis is on a skid. This isn’t exactly a “get right” game for the Tigers, even though it will be the first true road game for the Crimson Tide. I still think the Tide take care of the Tigers. If this line were much bigger, I’d go take Memphis and the points, but I’m confident enough in ‘Bama to believe they can cover this spread on the road.

Over/Under pick: Under 154.5

I fully understand why this line is as high as it is. Alabama can score. That said, I don’t think Memphis scores enough to hold up its end and send this over. The Tigers are averaging 68.1 PPG during their four-game losing streak, eight points below their season average. Memphis is good enough defensively to keep the Crimson Tide from scoring in the high 80s or beyond and sending this game over easily.

Guest Picker Kevin Sweeney’s Picks:

Moneyline/Spread pick: Alabama -3.5

It’s never fun betting against the supremely talented team that is underperforming because you never know when they’ll start to turn things around, but I’m skeptical that Tuesday’s that day. Alabama has been outstanding lately, coming off huge wins over Gonzaga and Houston in which they flashed just how elite it can be on the offensive end of the floor. For Memphis to be in this game, they need their defense to hold strong … but the Tide’s offense just picked apart a far more disciplined Houston defense this weekend. The fans may help Memphis stay in the game and give Alabama some nervous moments, but I think Alabama eventually pulls away.

Over/Under pick: Over 154.5

The question here is whether Memphis can score, because this game will almost certainly be played at a breakneck pace. What pushes this game to the over will be the number of free throws taken by both teams, which love to attack the rim and have a tendency to foul a lot themselves. The Tigers need to get to the line a ton to stay in this game, and I believe they will.

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