Wisconsin vs. North Carolina NCAA Tournament First Round Picks

Wisconsin vs. North Carolina NCAA Tournament First Round Picks
Jonathan Davis #1 of the Wisconsin Badgers takes a shot. Justin Casterline/Getty Images/AFP

2021 NCAA Tournament, Wisconsin vs. UNC. Who will make the next round? UNC and Wisconsin are used to competing for titles, but both teams are lucky to make the NCAA Tournament in 2021. After the Round of 64, only one team will remain. What is the best NCAAB pick? Where are the best sportsbooks?

Wisconsin Badgers vs North Carolina Tar Heels

Friday, March 19, 2021 – 01:00 PM EDT at Mackey Arena

Almost every conference in the Power 5 saw a shift in power. Alabama won the SEC, and Kentucky isn’t even in the NCAA Tournament. Other blue-blood programs like Duke are out as well. Even top-tier teams who made the tournament aren’t close to where they usually are. UNC is used to competing in the Final Four, but they will have a long way to go. As an eight-seed, they will have to get through Baylor, Ohio State and other top-tier teams to get through. However, their first test is against the Wisconsin Badgers.

Wisconsin has a proud NCAA Tournament history as well, but they failed to compete in the competitive Big Ten this year. Still, this game could go either way. NCAAB odds favor UNC by two points, but can the Badgers pull off the upset?

Keys for UNC to Win

The Tar Heels have a fast-paced offense that brings them success, but it can get sloppy at times. They had more turnovers than anyone in the ACC, and they had to rely on frequent trips to the free-throw line. Unfortunately, UNC was abysmal at free-throw shooting this season, so this wasn’t a recipe for success.

However, they also dominated on the glass. That will be a key in this game. Since they struggle to make free-throws and three-pointers, they have to rely on a physical presence in the paint. That means that they have dominated on the glass, and they must do that against Wisconsin.

It is too late to become a three-point team, but UNC has to at least rely on high-quality perimeter shots by good players. Kerwin Walton is the best shooter on the team, and he needs to have a high-level shooting performance.

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Thankfully, Wisconsin is not known for perimeter shooting either. In postseason games, you need one player to go off and carry momentum. Wisconsin doesn’t have anyone better than Walton, so the Tar Heels have an advantage here.

Keys for Wisconsin to Win

Wisconsin likes to play at a slower pace than North Carolina, and they will need to do so in the first round. Momentum means a ton in the NCAA Tournament, and a quick spark by the Tar Heels could change the course of this entire game.

The Badgers also need to get more production from the bench. Stars carry the weight of NCAA Tournament games, but poor bench play can keep it from being close in the first place. This won’t matter as much in the first game since both teams will be well-rested, but the Badgers are at a disadvantage here.

Wisconsin has been excellent at limiting turnovers so far this season. That will have to continue in the NCAA Tournament. When emotions run high, the Badgers need to focus on fundamentals and play their brand of basketball. That means a slow pace, inside shooting and making the simple play.

Rebounding will be a massive concern for the Badgers. They were outrebounded in the regular season, and they are matched up with a team that excels at rebounding. Even if they have to lose some transition play, they must focus on boxing out and clearing the glass.

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Time for a Pick

NCAA Tournament picks are harder to make than any other. All logic and sense can lead you to make one pick, but the wildness of the tournament can lead to a different outcome.

On its face, this seems like a good matchup for North Carolina. They have more experience, and they have a quality win against Virginia Tech on their recent resume. However, Wisconsin’s stats are a bit skewed. Almost every loss they suffered was against a top-ranked team, so they are better than their record suggests.

Because of that, I’ll take Wisconsin and the points. 8-9 matchups are truly a coin toss, so the point spread favors the Badgers.

NCAAB pick: Wisconsin +2.5 (-110) at BetOnline (visit our BetOnline Review)

Wisconsin +2.5 (-110)
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*The pick reflects the line at the moment the writer made the play, the odds at the beginning of this article show the live line movement. Since the lines might vary, don’t forget to refer back to our live odds.