Top-seeded Wisconsin is favored over 4th-seeded N.Carolina for Thursday first NCAA tournament West Regional semifinal out in L.A.. Do we give the points with Bucky, or take 'em with the Heels?
Badgers-Heels Betting Odds
Most of the NCAA Tournament odds market opened this game with Wisconsin favored by five points, the total offered at 142. In the early betting most books bumped the Badgers to -6, and the total to 144.
According to Sagarin's PREDICTOR ratings at USAToday.com Wisconsin should be favored by 4.5 points, although that doesn't take into account a key North Carolina injury.
Those who believe the Heels might win this one outright could get +240 on the moneyline at 5Dimes.
Badgers-Heels: Sweet 16 Match-Up
Wisconsin has won 18 of its last 19 games, after holding off Oregon Sunday in Omaha 72-65. That game was tied with about six minutes to go, but the Badgers went on a 7-0 run to take a lead, and closed out the victory from the free-throw line.
UW only shot 43 percent from the floor Sunday, but hit 21 of 29 free-throws, including 10 of its last 12, and turned the ball over only six times. However, that wasn't enough to cover the spread as a 12-point favorite.
Wisconsin opened this NCAA tournament with an 86-72 victory over 16th-seeded Coastal Carolina last Friday, but couldn't cover that spread, either, at -20.
On the season the Badgers are now 15-2 SU but only 8-9 ATS against teams that made the NCAA Tournament.
North Carolina has won seven of its last nine games, going 6-3 ATS in the process, after beating Arkansas last Saturday in Jacksonville 87-78. The Heels trailed by a point with about 11 minutes to go, then used a 17-4 run to take the lead for good. The Hogs got within seven late, but Carolina hit a few free-throws to secure the victory and the cover as a five-point favorite.
UNC shot 45 percent from the floor, hit 29 of 37 free-throws and held Arkansas to just 37 percent FG shooting.
Last Thursday the Heels survived a serious scare from Harvard, scoring the last four points of the game to win 67-65.
North Carolina is now 11-9 SU but 8-12 ATS this season against teams that made the NCAA tournament.
Badgers-Heels, Statistically Speaking
On the season Carolina is shooting just under 48 percent from the floor, while holding opponents to just under 40 percent FG shooting. Wisconsin is shooting 48 percent from the floor, while limiting foes to 42 percent FG shooting.
Badgers-Heels Betting Trends
North Carolina has played six UNDERS in its last 10 games, in part because it's been playing some good defense. Wisconsin has played five OVERS in its last eight games, in part because it's scored at least 71 points in seven of those contests. Wisconsin is just 9-14-1 ATS over its last 24 games, in part because it's been favored by too much so many times.
North Carolina F Kennedy Meeks, who ranks third on the team in scoring at 12 points per game and second in rebounding at seven boards per game, sprained a knee in the victory over Arkansas, and as of early this week was listed as “doubtful” for Thursday's game.
Badgers-Heels Free Pick
We're very tempted to take Carolina here, but Meeks' injury plays a large factor. If he were playing and somewhere near full strength, we would take the Heels. But without him UNC is down a key contributor on both ends of the court. Wisconsin, meanwhile, can almost do it all; score on the inside, or from the outside, rebound, take good care of the ball, make opposing defenses work and play good D without fouling. And if it owns a late lead UW can hit its free-throws, which always comes in handy when trying to cover a spread. Add it all up and we'll go with the Badgers as our NCAA tournament pick.
Free NCAA Tournament Pick: Wisconsin -6 at BetOnline.