A big-conference bully meets a potential Cinderella when North Carolina and Harvard play the West Region's four-vs.-13 game Thursday night in Jacksonville. The Heels are only 1-5 against the spread in their last six NCAA tournament games; can they cover double-digits in this one?
Heels-Crimson Betting Odds
The NCAA Tournament odds opened this game with North Carolina favored by nine points, the OVER/UNDER offered at 133. By Tuesday morning some shops had bumped the Heels as far as -11.
According to Sagarin's predictor ratings at USAToday.com North Carolina should be favored by 13.5 points for this game.
Those who believe the dog might bite in this spot could get Harvard at +500 on the moneyline at BetOnline.
Heels-Crimson: The Match-Up
North Carolina went 11-7 in ACC play to finish in fifth place, then advanced to the ACC tournament championship game, where it lost to Notre Dame. With the at-large berth the Heels are playing in the NCAA Tournament for the fifth-straight season.
Actually, though, Carolina was supposed to win the ACC this season, and possibly make a run to the Final Four. The Heels came up far short on that first goal, and we're not big fans of their chances to achieve that second goal.
North Carolina is 8-10 SU, 7-11 ATS against teams that made the NCAA tournament this season. The Heels own victories over Davidson, UCLA, Ohio State, UAB (the Conference USA champ), Louisville, North Carolina State, Louisville again and ACC champion Virginia; and losses against Butler, Iowa, Kentucky, Notre Dame, Louisville, Virginia, Duke, NC State, Duke again and Notre Dame again. That's a lot of games against some pretty good teams.
On the underdog side of this match-up Harvard began this season as the favorite to win the Ivy League again, then went 11-3 in conference play to finish in a tie for first place with Yale. The Crimson then won a one-game playoff with the Bulldogs on a neutral court in Philadelphia 53-51 to earn their fourth-straight invitation to the Big Dance.
Harvard is 1-1 both SU and ATS against NCAA tournament qualifiers this season; it beat eventual CAA champion Northeastern back in December 60-46, covering as a nine-point favorite, but got blown out at Virginia two weeks later 76-27, whiffing ATS as an 11-point dog.
According to Sagarin at USAToday.com North Carolina has played the second-toughest schedule in college basketball season, while Harvard's schedule ranks No. 164.
Heels-Crimson, Statistically Speaking
Harvard is shooting 44 percent from the floor this season, while holding opponents to just under 40 percent FG shooting.
Carolina is shooting 48 percent from the floor, while also holding foes to just under 40 percent shooting.
Heels-Crimson Betting Trends
Carolina is 4-2 ATS this season when favored by between 10 and 17 points.
Harvard is 2-2 SU, 3-1 ATS in the NCAA tournament the last two seasons.
Harvard has trended toward the UNDERS this season by a 12-6 margin, as Crimson games have averaged 121 points.
North Carolina has leaned toward the OVERS this year by a 19-13 margin, as Heels games have averaged 146 points.
Heels-Crimson Free Pick
Big props to Harvard for winning the Ivy League four seasons in a row, but the Crimson just don't have the dogs to run with Carolina. We're a little surprised the line on this game isn't more than it is. We'll give the points and go with the Heels for our NCAA Tournament picks, while we see them advance to the second round to race the winner between Wofford vs. Arkansas.
Free NCAA Tournament Pick: North Carolina -10 at Pinnacle.