Oklahoma Sooners vs. North Carolina Tar Heels Pick & Prediction DECEMBER 20th 2023

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No. 11 North Carolina has played some high-profile opponents this season and competed well in those games.

However, the Tar Heels haven’t won a healthy share of those.

Riding a two-game skid, North Carolina (7-3) has another chance for a notable result when it faces No. 7 Oklahoma on Wednesday night in Charlotte.

“We’re a really good basketball team that has a lot more growth to go,” said North Carolina coach Hubert Davis, whose team dropped its past two games to then-No. 5 UConn and then-No. 14 Kentucky.

Oklahoma (10-0) will encounter a different type of challenge, playing in front of a predominantly pro-Tar Heels crowd. The Sooners have earned neutral-court victories against Iowa, then-No. 23 Southern California and Arkansas.

“Now got a top (15) team coming up with Carolina in supposedly a neutral site in Charlotte,” Sooners coach Porter Moser said. “We know they’re a storied program, so our guys are excited about the next one up.”

North Carolina also defeated Arkansas when the Razorbacks held a national ranking last month.

The area that the Tar Heels are bound to address is rebounding. Kentucky handled North Carolina on the boards 43-32 on Saturday in Atlanta, with the Wildcats pulling down 18 offensive rebounds

Davis acknowledged that area needs to be fixed.

“You have to win battles in the trenches,” he said. “In the trenches is rebounding, winning your one-on-one battles. It’s those little detail things that allow you to be successful. The story is right there in the trenches. That’s what has to change.”

North Carolina continues to get a big boost from guard RJ Davis, who has scored at least 26 points in each of his past five games. He also led the Tar Heels with seven rebounds against Kentucky, and that was met with mixed feelings by Davis.

“It’s good and it’s not good at all,” Davis said of a guard pacing the team on the glass.

With another strong opponent next on the slate, Davis wants to see lessons applied.

“A lot to learn from,” he said. “This is an opportunity for us to learn and to grow and this is good for us. As we go throughout the season, we’ll be in some situations like this.”

The Tar Heels hope to see more signs that Cormac Ryan, a transfer from Notre Dame, is breaking out of a shooting slump. Ryan made a season-high four 3-point baskets in the Kentucky game, and that resulted in a season-best 20 points.

“I’m not worried about it at all,” Davis said of Ryan’s shooting. “He has been a consistent shooter throughout his entire career.”

The Tar Heels are getting most of their offensive production from starters. North Carolina’s reserves were outscored 36-14 by Kentucky.

The Sooners have shown the ability to go on runs even with reserves on the court. Oklahoma’s backups tallied 39 points Saturday in an 81-47 rout of visiting Green Bay.

“It just shows you the depth,” Moser said. “We’re deeper and the guys know it. These guys have really bought into their shift. It’s their shift, and they’re coming in playing their tails off.”

The Wednesday game is part of the second year of the Jumpman Invitational in Charlotte, with each team playing one contest. Florida and Michigan meet in the first game on Tuesday.

–Field Level Media

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