There may not be a more anticipated Sweet 16 matchup than the one between the North Carolina Tar Heels and UCLA Bruins, as two of college basketball's most storied programs battle for a spot in the Elite Eight. Read on for our best against the spread and Over/Under play in the North Carolina-UCLA game.
Had North Carolina (26-9, 15-5) not held on in overtime to beat No. 1 seed Baylor in the Round of 32, social media would have blown up over what many felt to be egregious refereeing in the second half. North Carolina now has reached the Sweet 16 for the fifth time in its last six tournament appearances, and its 30th Sweet 16 appearance is the most all-time. North Carolina's win also marks the fifth straight tournament without the reigning champion making the Sweet 16.
UCLA's (27-7, 15-5) Round of 32 game was not as dramatic as North Carolina's, as the Bruins easily cruised to a 72-56 win over Saint Mary's. Instead, UCLA saved the drama for its opening-round win over Akron, fighting back from an eight-point deficit and pulling out a gritty four-point win late. As a result, the Bruins are in the Sweet 16 in consecutive years for the first time since 2014-15 and look to keep their hopes for consecutive Final Four appearances alive.
North Carolina vs UCLA Matchup Info
Date/Time: Friday, March 25, 9:39 p.m. ETTV: CBSLocation: Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia, PA
North Carolina vs UCLA Odds
UCLA opened as a 3-point favorite but has since been bet down to -2 as the slight majority of the betting action is on North Carolina to this point. The Tar Heels have received 68% of the tickets and 66% of the cash. North Carolina is 7-2 ATS as underdogs, while UCLA is 16-14 ATS as favorites.
The total for this game has also moved in response to the early betting action. With 84% of the tickets and 81% of the cash on the Over, the total has moved from 142 to 142.5 points. The Over is 6-2 in UCLA's last eight games and is 5-2 in North Carolina's last seven.
SEE ALSO: March Madness Betting Guide
North Carolina vs UCLA Picks
North Carolina +2 (-110) ???Under 142.5 (-110) ??
North Carolina vs UCLA ATS Pick
North Carolina +2 (-110)
Though the Tar Heels would have preferred not to have blown a 25-point lead against Baylor, one could argue it was the best thing for them. North Carolina showed tremendous resolve without forward Brady Manek and guard Caleb Love (fouled out) available for overtime and with forward Armando Bacot saddled with four fouls. Little-used guards Dontrez Styles and Puff Johnson made critical plays down the stretch, and the Tar Heels now have to feel good that they can rely on their bench if needed, as opposed to playing their starters heavy minutes like they have all season.
North Carolina shredded an outstanding Baylor defense, assisting on 22 of 28 field goals. However, the biggest reason for backing the Tar Heels in this spot is the injury concern surrounding UCLA's Jaime Jaquez. Jaquez (14 points per game) did not score in the second half of the team's win against Saint Mary's, and he sat on the bench for much of the second half with ice wrapped around his ankles.
Jaquez has only missed one game this year, but the ankle injury has been a lingering concern. If UCLA's second-leading scorer is not 100% on Friday, the Tar Heels have a much better chance to win outright.
North Carolina vs UCLA Over/Under Pick
With seemingly everybody backing the Over at this point, we will go the contrarian route and support the Under. While North Carolina has averaged 94 ppg through the first two tournament games, they now face a UCLA defense that has allowed just 54.5 points per game through its first two games.
The Bruins have been solid all season, ranking 13th in KenPom's adjusted defensive efficiency metric, and were the Pac-12's second-best 3-point defense. That will come in handy against a Tar Heels team that ranks just outside the top 40 in 3-point shooting percentage.
UNC committed an uncharacteristic 21 turnovers in its win over Baylor. While UCLA will not press like Baylor did, the Bruins did force turnovers on nearly 20% of opponents' possessions, which North Carolina needs to be wary of in a game that projects to have far fewer possessions than the Heels are accustomed to.
Where to Bet on North Carolina-UCLA Picks
Here are our top-rated sportsbooks:
North Carolina-UCLA picks made 3/21/2022 at 9:08 a.m. ET