A NCAA Tournament held without the University of North Carolina just wouldn't feel right. However, as things stand right now it's hard to imagine the Tar Heels getting an at-large bid to the Big Dance. They need to start winning regularly sooner rather than later but haven't been good on the road heading into Wednesday's game at Georgia Tech. UNC opened as a 4-point favorite on NCAA basketball odds.
The Heels' resume is perplexing. Yes, they beat then-No. 3 Louisville, won at top-ranked Michigan State and beat No. 11 Kentucky. North Carolina (8-11 ATS, 8-10 O/U at sportsbooks) also has lost at home to Belmont and Miami (Fla.) and at UAB. The Tar Heels haven't looked good in three road ACC games, losing 73-67 at Wake Forest, 57-45 at No. 2 Syracuse and 76-61 at Virginia. Carolina does enter off an 80-61 win over Clemson, but that's the biggest lock in college basketball. UNC improved to 57-0 all-time against the Tigers in Chapel Hill, an NCAA record for consecutive home wins by one team over another. UNC shot 55.4 percent, led by James Michael McAdoo's 22 points, from the field and is 5-0 this season when shooting at least 50 percent.
Of course the Heels (12-7, 2-5 ACC) have played all season without projected first-round NBA draft pick P.J. Hairston, and his college career is over with Hairston now in the NBA's D-League. Leslie McDonald, last season's sixth man and now occasionally starting, has only been eligible since Dec. 18. The team dearly missed his 3-point shooting.
Coach Roy Williams made a change to his starting five for the Clemson game with freshman center Kennedy Meeks moving into the first five. He may stay there after putting up 11 points, eight rebounds and three blocks against the Tigers. The Heels have yet to win back-to-back games in the ACC. Wednesday's game will be the 900th in Williams' head coaching career.
Injury-Ravaged Ramblin' Wreck
The Yellow Jackets (11-9, 2-5) have been to the NCAA Tournament just once since 2007 and don't seem likely to change that this spring. They enter off a tough 80-78 overtime loss at NC State on Sunday, the team's third loss in the past four games. NC State's Chris Warren, the ACC's leading scorer, won it with a running jumper with 6.2 seconds left in the extra session. A Tech 30-footer at the buzzer missed. Daniel Miller had a career-high 21 points for the Jackets.
Tech's season really went downhill when sophomore big man Robert Carter Jr. was lost early this month to a torn meniscus. He was averaging 10.3 points and 9.3 rebounds, among the ACC's best rebounders. A decision will be made Wednesday whether Carter can be put on a rehab program that would get him back later this season. Georgia Tech (7-7 ATS, 6-7-1 O/U at sportsbooks) has really struggled defensively and on the boards without him. Three ACC teams have shot a season-high from the field in conference games against Georgia Tech already. In addition, Tech guard Solomon Poole, who started a few of games, has missed the past five games due to migraines.
Only scheduled meeting. Last season, North Carolina was a 3.5-point favorite for sports bettors when it visited Atlanta and beat Georgia Tech 70-58 behind McAdoo's 22 points and 11 rebounds. It was UNC's third straight win in the series. Tech has still won six of the past eight meetings on its home court. North Carolina won the other matchup in Chapel Hill in 2013, 79-63, as an 11-point favorite on NCAA basketball odds.
Free Pick: North Carolina -4 for our NCAA basketball pick, even though UNC has covered just once in its past 10 at Georgia Tech. The Heels finally played with some urgency vs. Clemson so maybe they are about to take off. With their next two games very winnable at home, this is a great chance for the Tar Heels to get and stay above .500 in ACC play.