#9 Wisconsin vs. #8 North Carolina NCAA Tournament Round 1

#9 Wisconsin vs. #8 North Carolina NCAA Tournament Round 1 | 2021 NCAA Basketball Expert Analysis

Written by on March 17, 2021

Arguably the best first-round matchup of the 2021 NCAA Tournament features No. 9 Wisconsin of the Big Ten against No. 8 North Carolina of the ACC on Friday. The Tar Heels are short favorites on the NCAAB odds and the winner gets No. 1 overall Baylor.

How to Bet Wisconsin vs. North Carolina NCAA Basketball Odds & TV Info

Last Meeting

The schools have met twice in the NCAA tournament, with the Badgers recording a win in the 2015 Sweet 16 and the Tar Heels claiming a win in the 2005 Elite Eight. Overall, UNC holds a 3-1 advantage in the all-time series, including a win in the most recent meeting at the 2016 Maui Invitational championship game.

Why Bet on Wisconsin? | 2021 NCAA Basketball Expert Analysis

A 2-6 finish in Wisconsin’s last eight games didn’t do much for its profile, but those losses also came against Iowa (three times), Illinois, Michigan and Purdue. Still, Wisconsin didn’t look like the same team that beat Loyola Chicago, Louisville and Maryland prior to that late slide.

The Badgers (17-12) do have the lowest turnover rate in America. They’re led by seniors D’Mitrik Trice (13.7 PPG), Micah Potter (12.9 PPG) and Brad Davison (9.2 PPG). They also made just 32.7% of their 3-point attempts in league play.

The Badgers are making their 25th trip to the Big Dance overall and are one of five schools to appear in 21 of the last 22 NCAA tournaments. Wisconsin is 38-23 (.623) all-time in the NCAA tournament, reaching four Final Fours and 10 Sweet 16s. The Badgers have made the Sweet 16 in six of the last nine NCAA tournaments. The Badgers have made the NCAA tournament’s second weekend in 2011, 2012, 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017 during that stretch.

In an ironic twist, while stepping outside of the Big Ten, which placed a record nine teams in the Big Dance, punctuated by two 1-seeds and two 2-seeds, the Badgers will be stepping back into a Big Ten arena — Mackey Arena — where they last played Purdue two weeks ago (March 2).

This game will be about who can control the pace: North Carolina is 45th in possessions per game, whereas Wisconsin is 326th.

Why Bet on North Carolina? | 2021 NCAA Basketball Expert Analysis

North Carolina (18-10) has a lot of size on the frontline in 6-10 Armando Bacot and Garrison Brooks. And the Heels can also bring 6-10 Day’Ron Sharpe and 7-1 Walker Kessler off the bench. Nationally, they are among the leaders in offensive rebounding and second-chance points.

The inconsistent Heels have looked a lot better since stomping rival Duke in the regular-season finale on March 6. That served as a springboard into the ACC tournament, where the Heels pounded Notre Dame by 42 points and earned a tough win over Virginia Tech in the quarterfinals before a 69-66 loss to Florida State with a spot in the tournament final at stake.

For a team that made just 30.9 percent of its 3s in the regular season, the Tar Heels were much more formidable for three games in Greensboro. They shot 36.5 percent from behind the arc in three games. The Heels have emerged more confident and believe they have what it takes for an extended stay in Indianapolis. Carolina reached the Final Four as a No. 8 seed in 2000, which was played in Indianapolis.

Still, UNC has to play better in the first half of games. Carolina shot 26.7 percent from the floor in the first half against Florida State and trailed by 11. UNC has trailed at the half in 15 of its 28 games this season. Carolina has now been outscored by 12 points in the first half and outscored its opponents by 188 points in the second half.

In addition, free throws have been an issue. UNC made 14 of 25 (56.0 percent) vs. FSU and it was the eighth time this season UNC shot under 60 percent from the line.

The Tar Heels and Kansas Jayhawks have the most wins in the NCAA Tournament since 2010 (24 apiece).

Game Trends

  • Badgers are 14-6-2 ATS in their last 22 NCAA Tournament games.
  • Badgers are 9-4-3 ATS in their last 16 neutral site games as an underdog.
  • Badgers are 3-7-1 ATS in their last 11 Friday games.
  • Badgers are 1-3-1 ATS in their last 5 games overall.
  • Tar Heels are 5-1-1 ATS in their last 7 games vs. a team with a winning straight up record.
  • Tar Heels are 5-2 ATS in their last 7 games as a favorite.
  • Tar Heels are 1-4 ATS in their last 5 NCAA Tournament games as a favorite.

Expert Prediction

  • North Carolina 69, Wisconsin 68

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