UNC vs Portland Basketball Prediction & Picks: Will the nation’s top-ranked team be tested by the Pilots?

Eddie Griffin

After a stunning run to the national championship game last season, North Carolina has a lofty ranking and lofty expectations to open this college basketball season. So far, UNC has taken care of business, but tests could be ahead over the next few days at the Phil Knight Invitational in Portland.

But before potential games against Villanova or Michigan State (or Alabama or UConn), the Tar Heels will first have to handle the University of Portland in their tournament opener today.

The two teams met in at this stage of the inaugural edition of the event in 2017, with the Tar Heels, who were the reigning national champions, hitting the century mark in a 102-78 win over the Pilots.

Will we see another high-scoring encounter between the two teams this time around? Keep reading for our UNC vs Portland prediction and our recommended bets for the matchup.

UNC Tar Heels vs Portland Pilots Matchup Information and Betting Odds (2022 Phil Knight Invitational)

Matchup Information

  • Matchup: #1 North Carolina Tar Heels (4-0) vs Portland Pilots (4-2)
  • Venue & Location: Moda Center (Portland, Oregon)
  • Date: Thursday, November 24, 2022
  • Game Time: 1:00 pm ET (10 am local time)
  • How to Watch UNC vs Portland: ESPN

UNC vs Portland Odds

Game odds are via FanDuel as of Thursday, November 24, 2022, at 10:10 am ET. This article may also include odds from our other recommended sports betting sites.

Spread

  • North Carolina -15.5 (-106)
  • Portland +15.5 (-114)

Over/Under

  • Over 153.5 (-110)
  • Under 153.5 (-110)

Moneyline

  • North Carolina -1420
  • Portland +810

Will the Heels Heat Up Against the Pilots?

It hasn’t been the smoothest start for North Carolina, but they are unblemished heading into the Phil Knight Invitational.

After a 13-point win over UNC Wilmington in their opener, the Tar Heels found themselves trailing the College of Charleston at halftime before roaring back for a 102-86 win.

Another test came against Gardner-Webb, who trailed by 14 with seven minutes left but rallied to make it a two-possession game late before UNC closed out a 72-66 win.

In their most recent game, an 80-64 win over James Madison on Sunday, they found themselves in a tricky spot, seeing a 19-point halftime lead trimmed to just eight before they pulled away.

So, there is certainly some vulnerability there. Part of that can be attributed to poor outside shooting. After shooting 36.2 percent from three last season, UNC is shooting just 28.7 from outside thus far this season.

Perimeter Shooting Woes for North Carolina

Caleb Love

  • Last Season: 36.0% (93 for 258)
  • This Season: 18.5% (5 for 27)

R.J. Davis

  • Last Season: 36.7% (66 for 180)
  • This Season: 30.0% (6 for 20)

Pete Nance

  • Last Season (at Northwestern): 45.4% (42 for 93)
  • This Season: 36.4% (4 for 11)

UNC could find themselves in some trouble if their shots aren’t falling but Portland’s are. The Pilots were only 6 for 20 from three in their 80-68 loss to Seattle last Saturday, but they are shooting 36.7 percent from outside and have hit 10 or more threes three times this season.

Leading the way for Portland is Tyler Robertson (17.5 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 4.3 APG), who had an astounding 24 free-throw attempts–he made 22–in their 98-91 win over Portland State.

Also, the Tar Heels need to stay locked in on Moses Wood (13.8 PPG, 7.6 RPG), who is averaging 6.6 attempted threes per game and shooting 36.4 percent from outside.

They also two other double-digit scorers in forward Kristian Sjolound (12.2 PPG, 4.2 RPG), who started his collegiate career at Georgia Tech, and guard Mike Meadows (11.3 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 3.3 APG), who, like Robertson, transferred from Eastern Washington after former Eagles coach Shantay Legans became Portland coach following the 2020-21 season.

UNC vs Portland Prediction and Picks

UNC vs Portland Prediction: UNC to win

UNC vs Portland Picks: UNC/Portland over (Best Value: over 153.5 @ -109 at BetRivers) & UNC team total over (Best Value: over 84.5 @ -105 at Caesars Sportsbook)

Seattle shot the ball well against Portland last time out, hitting 53.2 percent (33 of 62) of their shots overall and 38.5 percent (10 of 26) from three, both of which are the best percentages for any Portland opponent thus far this season.

That is potentially encouraging for the Tar Heels, who have shot 20 percent, 25 percent, 32 percent, and 32 percent from outside so far.

Either way, I expect plenty of points in this matchup, but especially from UNC, who will move on to a semifinal showdown with either Villanova or Iowa State.

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Eddie Griffin
Eddie Griffin

Eddie Griffin has been writing about and Betting on sports for over a decade. For more of his thoughts on sports and sports betting, you can follow him on Twitter.

Eddie Griffin has been writing about and Betting on sports for over a decade. For more of his thoughts on sports and sports betting, you can follow him on Twitter.