North Carolina

Our Best Bets for Friday Night’s March Madness Games

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March rolls on.

After a huge early slate of college hoops, we have plenty of basketball left and plenty of bets remaining on the board.

Our staff broke down four different bets for three games below, starting with two bets for North Carolina vs. Wisconsin, one for Houston vs. Cleveland State, and another for San Diego State vs. Syracuse.

Check out each breakdown below, and feel free to use the table below to navigate to a specific game instantly.

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Note: All photos below are via Getty Images.

(8) North Carolina vs. (9) Wisconsin

By BJ Cunningham

ncaa-college basketball-betting-odds-picks-best bets-wisconsin-illinois-florida-kentucky-oklahoma-oklahoma state-south dakota-north dakota state-february 27
Pick Under 137.5
Tipoff 7:10 p.m. ET

North Carolina really only does one thing well offensively, but it does it better than anyone else in the country: offensive rebounding.

The Tar Heels have an amazing frontcourt with Armando Bacot and Garrison Brooks. The duo has led UNC to the best offensive rebounding percentage in the country. However, North Carolina was one of the worst shooting teams in the ACC this season, hitting only 31.7% from 3-point range and 48.9% from inside the arc.

The Heels have the highest turnover rate in the ACC, mainly due to the fact that they have two freshmen in the backcourt.

North Carolina does get to the free-throw line at a high rate, but it hits only 66.8% of its free throws. So, a lot of the Tar Heels’ points have to come off of second-chance opportunities, which is going to be difficult against Wisconsin since the Badgers are an above-average defensive rebounding team, ranking 68th in defensive rebounding percentage.

Wisconsin’s bread and butter is its defense since its offense hasn’t done it too many favors this season. The Badgers are 13th in defensive efficiency (per KenPom) and are well equipped to handle North Carolina’s frontcourt with the twin towers of Micah Potter and Nate Reuvers.

Wisconsin’s offense has been a nightmare this season, as it averaged only 1.01 points per possession in Big Ten play. Basically, the only things the Badgers do well is hold onto the ball and make 3s. Wisconsin has the second-lowest turnover percentage in the nation and shoots 36% from 3-point range.

However, the Badgers really struggle to score inside, hitting only 46.3% from inside, which is going to be a major problem against the two monsters in North Carolina’s frontcourt. Teams haven’t found a way to score inside, as the Tar Heels allow only 46.8% from 2-point range and have the 26th-highest block rate in the country.

So, really, the only way Wisconsin is going to be effective is by getting hot from behind the arc.

The Badgers play one of the slowest, most deliberate paces in the country, ranking 327th in adjusted tempo, per KenPom. North Carolina loves to get out and push the pace, so I expect the Badgers to try and slow this game down as much as possible.

With two struggling offenses and a slow pace, I think we’re going to see a low-scoring affair.

I only have 133.23 points projected for this game, so I think there’s some value on under 137.5 points and would play it down to 135.5.

Pick: Under 137.5 (Play to 135.5)

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(8) North Carolina vs. (9) Wisconsin

By Mike Randle

Pick North Carolina -1.5
Tipoff 7:10 p.m. ET

This is a battle of two teams going in opposite directions. 

Wisconsin has sputtered all season after starting 8-1 with non-conference wins over Loyola-Chicago and Louisville. 

As usual, the Tar Heels have a dominant front-line with Garrison Brooks (10.2 PPG, 6.8 RPG), Armando Bacot (12.2 PPG, 6.8 RPG), and impressive 6-foot-11 freshman Day’Ron Sharpe (9.7 PPG, 7.8 RPG). 

They will give North Carolina a huge advantage on the boards, as the team ranks first in the country in offensive rebounding percentage. 

Wisconsin’s half-court offense has stagnated, becoming overly reliant on the 3-point shot. The Badgers generate almost 37% of their points from beyond the arc, the 41st-most in the country. 

Wisconsin has lost six of its past eight games, often struggling to contain bigs such as Luka Garza and Zach Edey. Its 62-57 conference tournament loss to Iowa when the Hawkeyes shot just 10% (2-of-20) from deep was very concerning. 

Look for UNC to pull away from Wisconsin in the second half, putting the snail-like Badgers offense in a comeback position they can’t handle. 

If guards R.J. Davis and Kerwin Walton make their 3s, this UNC team will pose a real threat to Baylor in the next round.

Pick: North Carolina -1.5 (Play to -2.5)

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(2) Houston vs. (15) Cleveland State

By Shane McNichol

ncaa-college basketball-betting-odds-picks-best bets-army-boston university-pittsburgh-nc state-houston-south florida-nevada-utah state-sunday february 28
Pick Houston -20
Tipoff 7:15 p.m. ET
TV truTV

Most of the 1- and 2-seeds have major advantages all over the court against their low-major opponents. Houston might have the most intrinsic physical advantages that should keep the Cougars well clear of Cleveland State.

Kelvin Sampson sends his guys to the glass aggressively on the offensive end. That philosophy, plus Houston’s athleticism, has the Cougars grabbing the second-highest percentage of their offensive rebounds in the nation, following only North Carolina.

Cleveland State doesn’t have the bodies to prevent Houston from having a field day on the offensive glass. The Vikings struggled to defensive rebound against Horizon League competition, ranking outside the top 300 in defensive rebounding rate in the nation.

The Vikings also don’t have the shooting to make a fluky run in this game. Cleveland State shot under 32% from outside the arc this year and did the large majority of its scoring inside.

Cleveland State’s only hope to stay close would be forcing Houston turnovers. The Cougar backcourt is more prepared than any of the Vikings recent opponents to face pressure. If anything, Cleveland State chasing turnovers will make scoring easier on Houston.

This one should be the Cougars in a romp.

Pick: Houston -20 (Play to -23)

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(6) San Diego State vs. (11) Syracuse

By Kyle Remillard

ncaa-college basketball-betting-odds-picks-best bets-siu edwardsville-tennessee martin-green bay-purdue fort wayne-eastern illinois-southeast missouri state-minnesota-northwestern-san diego state-boise state-february 25
Pick San Diego State -3
Tipoff 9:40 p.m. ET

San Diego State has not gotten the respect it deserves after finishing 53-6 over the last two seasons and winning back-to-back Mountain West titles.

This is an elite group that’s led by experience as five of it’s top six scorers are seniors.

The Aztecs match up well against the patented Syracuse 2-3 zone because of how well they shoot the ball from outside. As a team, they converted on 39.5% of their 3-point shots, in large part due to Jordan Schakel hitting 46.7% and Terrell Gomez draining 41.7% of his shots from range.

Matt Mitchell is the glue to this offense who averages 15.4 PPG but will sit at the free-throw line, where the zone is vulnerable, and make the right play nearly every time.

San Diego State owns a phenomenal defense, holding opponents to an average of just 60.6 points per game. Syracuse has only one win over a team ranked inside the KenPom top 50, and that was a two-point victory over North Carolina.

Outside of Virginia, this will be the highest-ranked team the Orange have matched up with all season.

San Diego State has the coaching, the talent, and the experience needed to make a deep run this tournament, and I see it getting past Syracuse with relative ease.

Pick: San Diego State -3 (Play to -3.5)

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