- Tar Heels pegged as top seed in Midwest Bracket after claiming share of first-place in ACC standings
- UNC saw season-high eight-game SU win streak ended with heartbreaking loss to Duke in ACC Tournament semifinal
- Jayhawks biggest threat on UNC side of the bracket, while Kansas, Houston, Iowa State battle for a berth in Elite Eight
The North Carolina Tar Heels saw their bid for their first ACC Tournament title since 2016 halted with a heartbreaking 74-73 loss to archrival Duke in last weekend’s tournament semi-final.
Despite the loss, the Tar Heels have still emerged as a top seed at this year’s NCAA Tournament, and clear favorites to come out of the Midwest Region with a berth in the Final Four, sporting short +175 odds in the March Madness futures.
Odds to Win March Madness Midwest Region
|New Mexico State||+7000|
Tar Heels Building on Strongest Season Under Roy Williams
While the loss to the Blue Devils as 4.5-point underdogs was a disappointment, there is still lots to like about this UNC squad entering the NCAA Tournament. UNC is coming off its strongest performance in conference play since Roy Williams took over as bench boss in 2003, going 16-2 against ACC rivals, highlighted by a nine-game win streak that marks the squad’s longest run of success in over three years.
— DTH Sports (@DTHSports) March 18, 2019
The Tar Heels have shown steady improvement over the course of the campaign, which they started at No. 8 on the AP Top 25.
After struggling through a middling 3-3 run in early-season non-conference action, the Tar Heels caught fire, going 15-1 in 16 contests ahead of last weekend’s loss to Duke. The lone defeat during that run came against the Virginia Cavaliers, who joined them at the top of the ACC standings at 16-2.
UNC has also been a regular producer at the sportsbooks, going 16-6 ATS in its past 22 contests
UNC has also been a regular producer at the sportsbooks, going 16-6 ATS in its past 22 contests.
However, getting back to the Final Four for the third time in four years will be far from a cake walk for the Tar Heels.
Is Kentucky the Best No. 2 Seed?
The Tar Heels find themselves grouped in the Midwest Bracket with a quartet of squads that are all threats to reach the Final Four. The Kentucky Wildcats sit second to UNC in the Midwest odds at +270, ahead of the No. 3 Houston Cougars at +450, the No. 6 Iowa State Cyclones at +700, and the No. 4 Kansas Jayhawks at +900.
The No. 2 seed in the Midwest, Kentucky enters this year’s tournament sporting strong +1200 odds to win the national championship, but have work to do to return to the Final Four for the first time since 2015.
It won't go through the Bluegrass State, but UK has a clear path to the Final Four https://t.co/HNvPKjy8q6
— Courier Journal (@courierjournal) March 18, 2019
Kentucky has gone 17-3 over it past 20, but serious concerns remain. With their 82-78 loss to Tennessee in the SEC Tournament semifinal, the Wildcats have posted losses in three of four meetings with nationally-ranked squads, and has compiled a meagre 3-7 ATS record in its past 10 outings.
However, the Wildcats impressed in an 80-72 road win over UNC back in December, extending their recent dominance over the Tar Heels with their seventh win in 10 meetings. The teams have split a pair of meetings in March Madness since 2011.
Cyclones Peaking Just in Time for March Madness
The surprising Iowa State Cyclones look to be peaking right on time. The Cyclones busted out of a dismal 2-7 run at this year’s Big 12 Tournament, marching to a tournament title, capped by a 78-66 rout of the Jayhawks.
However, the tough road to the Elite Eight for the Cyclones goes through Kentucky and Houston, which enters the tournament as the No. 3 seed.
From Saturday: The Big 12 Tournament has become the equivalent of the Final Four for Iowa State. Cyclones' fans will drink to that. https://t.co/EEjE4WFlTj
— Dennis Dodd (@dennisdoddcbs) March 17, 2019
Inexperienced Cougars Dominated During Regular Season
The 31-3 Cougars were denied their first-ever AAC Tournament win by a 69-57 loss to Cincinnati, but have otherwise been among the most dominant teams in college basketball this season. Houston also sports a 3-1 record against nationally ranked squads, but enjoys little experience at the Big Dance, where they have won just one game in five tournament appearances since 2005.
Bill Haisten: Potentially, Houston would contend with Iowa State – and its fans. Downtown Tulsa streets will be teeming this weekend with Iowans clad in cardinal-and-gold apparel. https://t.co/QFlWqLZR5x via @tulsaworld
— Bill Haisten 🇺🇸 (@billhaisten) March 18, 2019
Jayhawks Have Owned UNC, But Struggle with Consistency
Over on the Tar Heels’ side of the bracket, the biggest threat likely comes from fourth-seeded Kansas.
Northeastern players: Kansas ‘beatable’ in first round https://t.co/z7Hu15boNM
— Mark Jaworski (@jawsfort) March 18, 2019
The Jayhawks have reached the Elite Eight in seven of 12 years, and enjoy a favorable path to a Sweet Sixteen clash with the Tar Heels, whom they have routed in three straight NCAA Tournament meetings.
However, Kansas will need to rediscover the high gear it has consistently lacked while failing to win more than three in a row since opening the season on a torrid 10-0 SU run.
SBD’s Regional Previews
- Odds to Win the West Region of 2019 March Madness Tournament
- Duke Listed as Odds-On Favorite to Win East Region of March Madness Bracket
SBD’s Other March Madness coverage:
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