These days, college basketball is all about the 3-pointer. The math wizards have proven that firing away from long range is a better overall strategy than pounding the rock down low. Think back to the First Round of this year’s NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament; teams like the Princeton Tigers (37.8% from downtown) and the Bucknell Bison (37.9%) were circled as potential Giant Killers, and they nearly won their games straight-up as big underdogs before settling for moral ATS victories.

The North Carolina Tar Heels (36.1%) are not one of those teams. They do their best work in the paint, leading all of Division I in 2-point shot attempts and marching endlessly to the foul line. It’s won UNC a lot of games, but it might not be enough this Saturday (8:49 PM ET, CBS) when they meet the decidedly new-school Oregon Ducks in the Final Four.

 

Ducks Dig the Long Ball

The Ducks (33-5 SU, 21-15-1 ATS) have been crushing the NCAAB betting lines this year, and they’ve done it by dialing long distance, sinking 38.3% of their 3-pointers. Oregon went 11-for-25 from behind the arc in last week’s Elite Eight matchup with the No. 1 overall seed at March Madness, the Kansas Jayhawks; the Ducks prevailed 74-60 to cash in as 8-point underdogs and reach their first Final Four since winning the inaugural Tournament in 1939.

The odds are stacked against Oregon again this Saturday. North Carolina (31-7 SU, 19-15-2 ATS) opened at –4.5 and moved to –5 in early betting, buoyed by their legion of Tar Heel supporters. There’s no denying the Heels deserve to be favored in this contest, especially with freshman Ducks forward Chris Boucher (20.0 points, 10.3 rebounds, 4.3 blocks per 40 minutes) missing the Tournament with a torn ACL. But Oregon have barely missed a beat since their prized big man went down. They could end up burying North Carolina in the same barrage of 3-pointers that destroyed Kansas.

Saturday’s opening game in Glendale (6:09 PM ET, CBS) has an even more dramatic split between the old and new way of doing things. But this time, it’s the favorites who should benefit. The Gonzaga Bulldogs (36-1 SU, 23-9-2 ATS) are one of the better 3-point shooting teams in the nation at 37.8%; the South Carolina Gamecocks (26-10 SU, 14-18-1 ATS) are one of the worst at 33.8%. If the refs aren’t kind to the Gamecocks and don’t send them to the free-throw line on the regular, they’ll be in bad shape as 6.5-point underdogs to the No. 1 ‘Zags.

 

*Odds as of March 31, 2017