- The No. 8 North Carolina Tar Heels will face the No. 9 Wisconsin Badgers at Mackey Arena on Friday night at 7:10 pm ET.
- The Badgers are 10th in KenPom’s Adjusted Efficiency Ratings while the Tar Heels are 28th
- The Tar Heels are a 1.5-point favorite for this contest.
There will be a matchup of perennial college basketball powers when the No. 8 North Carolina Tar Heels meet the No. 9 Wisconsin Badgers in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. The game will take place on Friday, March 19th, at 7:10 pm ET at Mackey Arena in West Lafayette, Indiana.
Both teams ended the year in a funk, which makes this game tricky to handicap. North Carolina is a 1.5-point favorite. Let’s take a closer look and see if there’s an edge to either team or the total in this contest.
Wisconsin vs North Carolina Opening Odds
|Wisconsin Badgers||+102||+1.5 (-109)||139.0 (-113)|
|North Carolina Tar Heels||-122||-1.5 (-110)||139.0 (-107)|
Odds as of Mar 16th at DraftKings.
North Carolina Has Not Impressed This Season
This isn’t your traditional North Carolina team. They’re not a powerhouse, they’re not ranked in the top 25, and they don’t really have stars. They’ve also struggled against ranked opponents, going 2-4 in those contests and just 10-9 against teams with a winning record overall.
The Tar Heels lack impressive play from their guards and are mostly built around size inside. They are third in the country in rebounds per game (43.2) and they lead the nation in offensive rebounds per game (15.9). That’s going to be a critical part of their success in the tournament as they are tied for 178th in terms of team field-goal percentage.
the 2020-21 North Carolina Tar Heels men’s basketball team has scored 100 points pic.twitter.com/JmhybtPO29
— bert (@brettlive) March 11, 2021
Wisconsin is tied for 256th in the country in rebounding, so the Tar Heels have an edge on the boards. If they can protect the glass and protect the three-point line, they should be in good shape.
Badgers Have Been Up-and-Down This Season
The Badgers have had a rollercoaster of a year. Once ranked as high as No. 4 in the country, they ended the year losing nine of their final 14 contests. They enter the Tournament with just two wins in their final eight games. Considering a team needs to win six straight games to win the championship, the fact that the Badgers haven’t won consecutive games since January doesn’t bode well.
Wisconsin is a team that lives and dies by the three, which is likely to continue in the Tournament. When they connect on the shots from distance, they’re hard to beat. When they don’t, they tend to implode. They are shooting just 33.7% from three in their last six losses but shot 38.8% from three in their last six wins.
This team is tied for 56th in the country in terms of threes made per game and they’ll have to get hot from beyond the arc to last more than a game.
What’s the Best Bet?
Things were ugly down the stretch of the season for Wisconsin but remember that they played in the Big Ten, which was loaded this year. The ACC was much weaker. Nine of Wisconsin’s 12 losses this season were to teams who ranked in the top 25. North Carolina is not in that range.
A lot of people are going to be down on the Badgers given that they were No. 4 in the nation and tumbled all the way out of the top 25 but consider how close some of their recent losses were: each of their last four were by four points or less. With the Badgers sitting as a small dog, they appear to be offering some value here.
Pick: Wisconsin ML (+102)