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North Carolina at N.C. State

There is a stacked slate of college basketball games on Saturday’s menu, so gamblers have tons of matchups to break down. Let’s take an in-depth look at a key ACC battle before touching on a number of other important contests.

BetOnline.com opened North Carolina St. (15-4 straight up, 9-8 against the spread) as a five-point home favorite for Saturday’s game against arch-rival North Carolina.

Mark Gottfried’s squad has an RPI of 17 and has gone 2-2 against RPI Top 50 opponents and 4-3 versus RPI Top 100 foes. However, N.C. St. is looking to bounce back from its worst effort of the year in Tuesday’s 86-84 loss at Wake Forest as an eight-point road ‘chalk.’

The victory for the Demon Deacons was the first against a team ranked in the RPI’s Top 75 during Jeff Bzdelik’s three-year tenure.

In the losing effort, Richard Howell had 13 points and 16 rebounds, Lorenzo Brown scored 13 points and dished out 10 assists and Rodney Purvis scored a team-high 18 points. The Wolfpack’s leading scorer, C.J. Leslie, was also in double figures with 13 points but he was limited to 18 minutes of playing time due to foul trouble.

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All five N.C. St. starters are scoring double figures led by Leslie’s 15.3 points-per-game average. The Wolfpack rank ninth in the nation in scoring, averaging 79.2 PPG.

N.C. St. is unbeaten in 11 home games, going 6-3 ATS. The Wolfpack’s best wins have come over Duke, UConn, UMass and Stanford. Their four defeats came at Wake Forest, at Maryland and in neutral-court games against Michigan and Oklahoma St.

Since back-to-back losses at Virginia and vs. Miami to open ACC play, North Carolina (13-5 SU, 10-6 ATS) has won three in a row both SU and ATS. The Tar Heels are coming off a 79-63 win Wednesday over Ga. Tech as 11-point home favorites. The 142 combined points jumped ‘over’ the 136-point total.

Reggie Bullock was the catalyst for UNC, finishing with 17 points and six rebounds on 7-of-12 shooting from the field. P.J. Hairston added 15 points in just 17 minutes of playing time, while James Michael McAdoo produced 14 points and nine boards.

Roy Williams’s team stopped the bleeding two Saturdays ago with its first ACC win in Tallahassee. UNC slipped past FSU in a nip-and-tuck affair to capture a 77-72 win as a three-point underdog. Next, the Heels knocked off Maryland 62-52 at home before this week’s triumph over the Yellow Jackets.

North Carolina is sporting an RPI Ranking of 32. UNC is 1-3 against RPI Top 50 foes but has three wins over schools in the 50-100 range (vs. East Carolina, vs. Maryland and at FSU).

UNC has been an underdog three times this season, compiling a 1-2 record both SU and ATS. The win came at FSU and the losses were at Virginia and at Indiana by an 83-59 count.

The ‘over’ is 8-6 overall for N.C. St., 4-2 in its home games. The ‘over’ is on a 6-3 run for the Wolfpack regardless of the venue.

The ‘under’ is 9-7 overall for UNC, 5-1 in its last six games. The ‘under’ is 4-1 in the Tar Heels’ five true road assignments.

Tip-off is slated for 7:00 p.m. Eastern on ESPN.

**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**

--The first game on Saturday’s card will come off the board at 11:00 a.m. Eastern when Villanova hosts Syracuse on ESPNU. BetOnline opened the ‘Cuse as a six-point road favorite. The Wildcats are off their best performance of the season in a 73-64 win Tuesday over Louisville as 11 1/2-point home underdogs. Jay Wright’s squad is 2-2 both SU and ATS as a home ‘dog this year, beating Louisville and St. Joseph’s but losing by double digits to Temple and Pitt.

--The ‘under’ is on an 8-2 run in Villanova’s last 10 games with a total.

--Louisville will try to respond to its loss at Villanova when it plays at Georgetown on ESPN at noon Eastern. The Cardinals opened as 6 ½-point road ‘chalk.’

--Florida is 5-0 in SEC play and is winning by an average margin of 25 points per game. The Gators opened as 19 ½-point favorites for Saturday night’s game at Mississippi St.

--Like UF, Ole Miss is 5-0 in SEC play for the first time since… the 1930s! The Rebels are six-point favorites Saturday at Auburn, but gamblers might want to be careful here. That’s because Andy Kennedy’s team is in a look-ahead situation with Kentucky coming to Oxford on Tuesday.

--I’ve always harped about how the AP Top 25 rankings in college hoops are beyond meaningless. And here’s three reasons why with unranked teams favored against ranked squads: San Diego St. -4.5 vs. #15 New Mexico, Iowa St. -3.5 vs. #11 Kansas St. and Wisconsin -3 vs. #12 Minnesota.

--The Gophers and Badgers will be in bounce-back mode after tough mid-week losses. Wisconsin lost a nail-biter at home to Michigan St., while Minnesota got upset at Northwestern.

--Speaking of Sparty, Tom Izzo’s team is 5-0 in Big Ten play with a trip to Assembly Hall to face Indiana looming on Sunday.

--Missouri was hoping to get Laurence Bowers back on Saturday vs. Vanderbilt. But Bowers, who averages 16.8 points and 6.9 rebounds per game, has been ruled 'out' and will miss a fifth straight game with a knee injury. The Tigers opened as 14-point favorites at most spots.

--The ‘under’ is 10-3 overall for Vandy although the ‘over’ has hit in two of its last three games.

--After posting a huge win Thursday at Arizona as an 8 ½-point underdog, UCLA faces a quick turnaround when it plays Saturday at Arizona St. The Bruins opened as 3 ½-point favorites at most books for this 4:00 p.m. Eastern tip against the Sun Devils in Tempe.

  
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