Wisconsin Badgers vs. North Carolina Tar Heels Odds & Pick

March 19, 7:10 PM EDT

Betting Odds

Point Spread: 
Wis +1.5/NC -1.5

Fifth place in the ACC meets sixth place in the Big Ten when North Carolina battles Wisconsin in an NCAA tournament first-round bout Friday night in West Lafayette. The Tar Heels started slowly this season, then finished well, while the Badgers basically played the reverse of that. How are we playing this game with our free college basketball pick?

NCAA Tournament Basketball Betting Odds

The NCAA tournament college basketball betting market opened North Carolina at -2 over Wisconsin, with an over/under of right around 139.5. Early betting action then dipped the Heels to -1.5 and dropped that total to 137.5. According to Sagarin's ratings at USAToday.com, the Badgers should actually be favored by a half-point for this game.

Wisconsin vs. North Carolina Betting Preview

The Badgers started 8-1 this season, with wins over Loyola-Chicago and Michigan State, and later reached 15-6, with additional victories over Rutgers and Maryland. But Wisconsin then ran into a brutal stretch of schedule and lost five of its last six games, albeit all to NCAA tournament qualifiers Michigan, Iowa, Illinois, and Purdue. And most of those games were close. The Badgers then held off Penn State 75-74 in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten tournament before losing to the Hawkeyes (for the third time this season) 62-57 last Friday.

So Wisconsin is back in the NCAA tournament for the second straight season (*). The Tar Heels, meanwhile, played 5-2 through their non-conference slate this season, the losses coming against Texas and Iowa. UNC then lost its first two ACC contests and later sat at 3-3 in league play. The Heels then played 8-4 from there, with two wins over Duke and one over Florida State, to finish 10-6 in conference action. North Carolina then beat Notre Dame, and a ranked Virginia Tech to reach the semifinals of the ACC tournament before losing to the Seminoles last Friday 69-66, pushing the spread as a three-point dog.

So North Carolina is back in the NCAA tournament for the 10th straight season. Sagarin ranks the Big Ten as the toughest conference in college basketball this season, with the ACC coming in at No. 3.

By the Numbers

This season, Wisconsin, playing against what Sagarin ranks as the ninth-toughest schedule in college basketball, is shooting just 42 percent from the field, 35 percent from 3-point range but 76 percent from the free-throw line. The Badgers are also holding opponents to 42 percent FG shooting, but they're getting out-rebounded by a per-game margin of 33-31. North Carolina, playing Sagarin's 23rd-toughest schedule, is shooting 44 percent from the floor, just 31 percent from long range, and 67 percent from the line. The Heels are also limiting opponents to 42 percent FG shooting and out-rebounding foes by a lopsided margin of 40-29 PG.

Also, Wisconsin led all of D-1 basketball with the fewest turnovers at 8.9 PG, while Carolina turned it over almost 15 times PG.

Totals Report

  • Totals are split 14-14 in Badgers games this season, which are averaging 134 total points.
  • The "Under" is 15-13 in Heels games this season, which are averaging 145 points.

Badgers vs. Tar Heels Predictions

North Carolina is playing the better ball as of late, and if it can limit the turnovers, it might run away with this game. Wisconsin, meanwhile, struggled mightily against the big men of the Big Ten this season, and that doesn't bode well for this match-up. We're going with Carolina here.

Free Pick: 
North Carolina -1.5