The #3 Hawkeyes have something to prove in the North Carolina at Iowa pick after starting the year 3-0, but with three tomato can victories. Fran McCaffrey’s team could meet a riled up UNC squad on Tuesday night (7:30 PM ET, ESPN) after the Tar Heels suffered a last second 69-67 loss to Texas their last outing.
North Carolina is definitely the more battle tested of these two teams, having faced Stanford and Texas as part of their Maui Invitational draw. The Hawkeyes have been at least a -28 favorite in each of their first three games of the season, although they have covered in two of those. Oddsmakers have the Hawkeyes as -4 favorites in this tilt.
UNC Gets a Boost With Minimal Fans
On paper this was set to be one of the most electric ACC/Big 10 Challenges of all time. #14 North Carolina at #3 Iowa still seems like it will be great, but the matchup loses a bit with no fans allowed in attendance at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
The fact that there are no spectators in this highly anticipated North Carolina at Iowa pick definitely helps the Tar Heels. Two of UNC’s top four scorers are freshman as RJ Davis has averaged 12.3 so far and Caleb Love 11.0. North Carolina has played a home game as well as three neutral site contests in Asheville, NC after the Maui Invitational was moved from Hawaii.
It would have been a big challenge going to Iowa City in front of fans for the first true road game for a young-ish North Carolina team. The Tar Heels are more than just a bunch of young guns though, and Sr. Garrison Brooks is the key vs. Iowa. The 6’10” forward went for 18 in the loss vs. Texas and has averaged 8.5 rebound/game this season. He’ll be tasked with trying to slow down Iowa’s All-American candidate.
Will Garza Still Post Gaudy Numbers Against Better Competition?
It wasn’t a bad strategy scheduling three inferior opponents to start the 2020 campaign for Iowa, especially with the shortened offseason and preseason restrictions due to COVID. Iowa has taken care of business in wins over NC Central (99-67), Southern (103-76), and Western Illinois (99-58), but that has also set up the Hawkeyes for their first real test of the year in a showdown with UNC.
If the Tar Heels are to have any chance on Tuesday they’ll need to stop – or at least try to slow down – Luka Garza. The Iowa big man is on the short list for Player of the Year contention, and has started off with 26/10, 41/9, and 35/10 splits in his first three games of the season. Once again, look at the competition though.
Free North Carolina at Iowa Pick
The Hawkeyes are going to be good this year, there’s no debating that, but one thing they’ll need to learn is managing expectations. Tuesday’s meeting seems like one where the pressures of being the #3 team in the country gets to Iowa.
Roy Williams is the type of veteran coach that can game plan to stop Garza – if others like Joe Weiskamp step up for the Hawkeyes then Iowa deserves the win. Unlikely this early in the year though.
North Carolina 74 – Iowa 69
Free Pick: North Carolina +4