Both teams face an early-season test on Saturday when the no. 18 North Carolina Tar Heels face the no. 6 Purdue Boilermakers in the Cheez-It Hall of Fame Tip-Off at Mohegan Sun Arena in Connecticut. Both teams enter the game 3-0 and hoping for an early resume-building win. On a neutral court, the Boilermakers are six-point favorites, with the over/under set at 153 points.
The Tar Heels are in the middle of a transition year with Hubert Davis taking over for Roy Williams. North Carolina is also coming off a couple of seasons that have been subpar by their standards. However, the Tar Heels are off to a promising start this season with wins over Loyola, Brown, and the College of Charleston.
Likewise, Purdue has endured a couple of back-to-back disappointing seasons under longtime coach Matt Painter. But the Boilermakers have brought back nearly their entire roster, giving them renewed hope. That’s been the case thus far, with Purdue knocking off Bellarmine, Indiana State, and Wright State.
The Boilermakers have scored over 90 points in all three of their games this season, with sophomore Zach Edey leading the way. The 7’4’’ center has made a huge leap, averaging 8.7 points per game last season but 18.7 points through three games this year. He’s made Purdue a team that plays from the inside out while also averaging over ten rebounds and two blocks per game.
At the same time, Purdue’s guard play has been excellent, with Sasha Stefanovic and Brandon Newman combining to go 20 of 41 from three-point range. Jaden Ivey has also taken a step forward in his sophomore season, averaging better than 15 points and three assists per game thus far. Surprisingly, forward Trevion Williams has taken a step back thus far after being Purdue’s most important player last season.
A Little Love
The Tar Heels return what could be a loaded backcourt led by Caleb Love, who’s averaging 19 points and 4.3 assists early in the season. R.J. Davis and Kerwin Walton are also back and have been shooting lights out from the perimeter early in the season. Oklahoma transfer Brady Manek is another player who can stretch the floor and is averaging 17 points per game with his new team.
Meanwhile, it’s in the frontcourt where the Tar Heels are still trying to replace three key figures from last season. Armando Bacot is the key figure in the paint, averaging 18 points and 9.3 rebounds early in the season as the only returning big man from last season’s rotation. Fortunately for UNC, Marquette transfer, Dawson Garcia gives them another player with size who can rebound at a high level.
This game has a chance to be one of the most compelling games of the early college basketball season. However, Purdue’s depth and balance might be too much for the Tar Heels, who don’t have the size they did last year that could allow them to contain Edey and Williams.
Bet on Purdue to win and cover against North Carolina.
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