The ACC has two No. 1 seeds in action Friday night, and both are solid favorites on the NCAA basketball odds to get by their opponents and head to the Elite Eight.
Forget what I said earlier this month about thinking the Big Ten was the best conference this year on the hardwood. The top 5-6 teams in the league may have been playing as well as the to half of any other conference at one point or another during the season, but it's obvious by how they performed early in the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament they weren't the best, especially the early exits by Michigan State and Purdue, seeded No. 2 and 5 in the Midwest Region only to lose opening round games.
No, it's clearly evident now that the Atlantic Coast Conference is still the best of the best, the crème de la crème thanks to strong play in the opening two rounds of the Big Dance that landed six teams in the Sweet 16. Four of those six are in action Friday, including both No. 1 seeds the ACC received.
One of those games pits the ACC against the Big Ten as North Carolina, the top seed in the East Region takes on No. 5 Indiana. The clash caps Friday's NCAA Tournament betting card with a tip-off at approximately 9:57 PM (ET) in Philadelphia. The Tar Heels are giving up 5½ to the Hoosiers with a 158½ point total. Moneyline wagers force a decision on UNC -235 at Pinnacle where Indiana is +205.
It's an interesting matchup since it pits the two regular season winners of both conferences, the Heels adding the ACC Tournament title to their trophy case while the Hoosiers were upset victims to Michigan in the B1G quarterfinals. We also have a nice matchup out on the point where Indiana's Yogi Ferrell will be seeing a lot of North Carolina's Marcus Paige. There is some tournament history between these two, the Hoosiers have the historical advantage. But I just can't pull the trigger on the underdog here, would love to see it, but the Tar Heels are my free NCAA Tournament pick in this one.
Hoos To Face Tough Challenge vs. Cyclones
The other No. 1 seed from the ACC in action is Virginia, the Cavaliers taking on Midwest No. 4 Iowa State to get Friday's slate underway (7:10 PM ET, CBS). Tony Bennett's bunch is drawing 5 point chalk for the match with 141 for the total on the NCAA tournament odds at 5Dimes. The Cavs require a -220 outlay on a moneyline wager, +200 the return on ISU.
The bet I like the most in this clash is the 'under,' despite the high-scoring nature of the tournament in general. I even like Iowa State plus the points here, but taking the Cyclones as a moneyline underdog? Nope, just can't do it though it would make my crazy Iowa State fan happy to see.
Virginia has simply been stacked up against tougher opponents recently, and did a good job in those games. In the three weeks leading up to the NCAA Tournament, the Cavaliers took on Miami and North Carolina twice, splitting with those teams while also beating a ranked Louisville squad. The Cyclones went 1-6 against the last seven ranked teams they faced, and it will be 1-7 after this contest ends.
Underdogs Might Be Right Plays In Other 2 Games
Another Big Ten-ACC battle on Friday pits East No. 7 Wisconsin opposite No. 6 Notre Dame in the 7:27 PM (ET) game on TBS. This one is just about a pick 'em with the Fighting Irish holding steady as 1 point favorites. Bookmaker has Notre Dame -120 on the moneyline, the Badgers even money (+100).
Wisconsin used its trademark defense in a win over No. 10 Pitt and then used a buzzer-beater to take down No. 2 Xavier to get to the point. Notre Dame did have an impressive rally to get by No. 11 Michigan, but didn't impress me at all in a 76-75 win over No. 14 Stephen F. Austin. I'll be adding the Badgers to my free college basketball picks.
Last, and certainly least according to their seeds, No. 10 Syracuse takes on No. 11 Gonzaga in the other Midwest semifinal. The Bulldogs are -4 vs. the Orange, and -185 on the moneyline. I picked Gonzaga to go on to the Elite Eight, but the more I think about it, 'Cuse warrants a play on a +170 moneyline at Pinnacle.
My picks: Wisconsin +100; Syracuse +170; Virginia -220; North Carolina -235.