North Carolina Meets UCLA in the Big Apple on Saturday

The NCAA men’s basketball season is in full swing. On Saturday, two storied programs will meet at the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn, New York when the No. 11 ranked North Carolina Tar Heels play the unranked UCLA Bruins.

Odds maker leading up to the tip off of this game have North Carolina favored by 7 points.

On the season, North Carolina is 8-2 straight up and 4-5 against the spread, while UCLA is 8-3 SU and 4-7 ATS.

North Carolina did not have Kennedy Meeks a starting forward in its latest victory, but his presence on the inside will be missed against UCLA.

Meeks is 6-foot-10 and weighs 260 pounds. He will miss his second consecutive game with a bone bruise on his knee, that could give the Bruins two big men Thomas Welsh and Tony Parker more room to work with.

North Carolina started Joel James in Meeks’ place Wednesday when the Tar Heels routed Tulane by 24 points. However, in this game, Roy Williams the NC coach may insert Isaiah Hicks a smaller player into the lineup in place of James.

The starting five for the Tar Heels is getting used to Marcus Paige’s return to the team after the leading scorer on the team the past two years missed the teams first six games due to a broken bone in one of his hands. Last weekend, North Carolina lost to Texas.

UCLA’s Welsh did not play Tuesday in a UCLA win over Louisiana, but it did not seem to hurt the Bruins as the team won its fifth straight. During the streak, UCLA has victories over Kentucky, while the Wildcats were ranked No. 1 and over Gonzaga when the Bulldogs were ranked No. 17.

Nevertheless, sportswriters have kept the Bruins out of the top 25 all season and that has given the team even more motivation in their games.

Paige is scoring over 17 points per game in the four games he has played since returning. Three players were given extra minutes in his absence but just Joel Berry II has continued to play equal minutes with Paige back on the court.

Parker is averaging a double-double for UCLA on the season with 14.6 points per game and 10.2 rebounds.

However, he has become a liability at times on the court as he shoots 47.4% from the free throw line. Against Louisiana, he made just 3 of his 9 shots from the foul line. That could be important down the stretch if North Carolina is trailing.

Isaac Hamilton a guard for UCLA has averaged 20 points in his past three games, but he did not score last season when UCLA was routed by North Carolina 78-56.

This game should be close throughout, but UCLA will cover in the end.

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