Mar 19, 2021 – 6:00 PM ET
A pair of big-name programs populate the No. 8 and No. 9 spots in the South Region as the North Carolina Tar Heels take on the Wisconsin Badgers in an intriguing college basketball betting matchup.
Wisconsin was a whipping boy for the Big Ten’s elite (of which there were many), while UNC was treading water in a mediocre ACC before starting to put things together at the end of the season.
Who do we like in our March Madness picks for this game? Find out below as we break down the March Madness odds in our free Wisconsin vs. North Carolina picks and predictions for March 19, with tip-off set for 7:10 p.m. ET.
(Editor’s Note: Picks are reflecting odds on the original publishing date of March 15, 2021.)
Wisconsin vs North Carolina odds
North Carolina opened as a 2.5-point favorite Sunday night at DraftKings, dipped to -1 a couple of times early in the week but has made its way back to -2 an hour before tipoff Friday. The Tar Heels are taking 60 percent of spread bets and 62 percent of spread money. The total opened at 139, peaked at 139.5 bottomed out at 136.5 and is now 137, with 57 percent of bets on the Over, but 69 percent of money on the Under.
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Wisconsin Badgers vs North Carolina Tar Heels betting preview
North Carolina: Puff Johnson G (Questionable).
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Betting trend to know
The Under is 11-1 in the Badgers’ last 12 neutral site games as an underdog. Find more NCAA betting trends for Wisconsin vs. North Carolina.
Against the spread (ATS) pick
Man, how can you not feel for the Badgers? They’re a good team, but they venture into March Madness 3-7 SU (3-6-1 ATS) in their last 10 games, all because they can’t get the job done against the country’s elite teams.
All seven of those defeats came against Illinois, Michigan, Iowa and Purdue—also known as two No. 1 seeds, a No. 2 seed and a No. 4 seed in the NCAA Tournament. That’s why, despite a pedestrian 17-12 SU and 12-15-2 ATS record, Wisconsin has some nice underlying numbers. It ranks 13th in the nation in adjusted defensive efficiency, per KenPom, 32nd in adjusted offensive efficiency, it rarely turns the ball over and gives up just 64.3 points per game (38th in the nation).
The Badgers are led by a pair of senior guards in D’Mitrik Trice and Brad Davison – which gives them an experience edge against an opponent that features four freshman guards in its backcourt rotation – but there’s one common theme in Wisconsin’s recent string of losses: It struggles to guard skilled opposing big men.
The opponent’s top big man was the top scorer in six of the Badgers’ last seven defeats (averaging 23 points per game) and, unfortunately for Wisconsin, the Tar Heels have big men aplenty.
UNC has four guys at 6-foot-10 (or bigger) they regularly deploy, as it isn’t hiding the gameplan—the Heels are gonna beat you up. Led by Armando Bacot (16.3 points and 10.7 rebounds per game), UNC has three guys grabbing better than seven boards per game, which has led to the Tar Heels being No. 1 in the nation in rebounding margin (+10.7 per game) and gobbling up an NCAA-best 41.3 percent of available offensive rebounds.
After meandering through the regular season, UNC is coming to life leading up to the Big Dance. The Heels ended the regular season with a convincing beatdown of Duke, followed that by absolutely obliterating Notre Dame in the second round of the ACC Tournament and then stomping Virginia Tech before falling to Florida State in the semifinals.
North Carolina has won three of its last four games (3-0-1 ATS) and harkens back to an old-school style of basketball. It does not shoot the three very well (31.7 percent) and doesn’t really bother attempting many shots from distance, rather being content to just overwhelm opponents down low with relentless waves of large men that make you feel like the Tune Squad in the first half against the Monstars.
We want to give Wisconsin the benefit of the doubt for playing such a grueling schedule, but they couldn’t really pull out a single win against a truly quality opponent this season, and a UNC team hitting its stride right now – whose strength is the Badgers weakness – is not a very good matchup.
PREDICTION: North Carolina -1.5 (-105)
More Covers South Region picks
We mentioned that the Badgers are a Top-13 defensive team, but it’s also worth mentioning that the Tar Heels are 15th in the country in adjusted defensive efficiency, as they have all those bigs just waiting for you to attack the paint.
Also working against the Over is UNC’s aversion to leaving the 1980s and only attempting 17.7 triples per game (310th in the nation), combined with the fact that Wisconsin plays at a snail’s pace: ranking 326th in adjusted tempo with an average of 18.9 seconds per possession (317th in the country).
Wisconsin has seen a total this high six times all season, with the Under cashing in five of those games. This is going to be a hard-nosed, brutal defensive fight, which is why we see the Under hitting once again.
PREDICTION: Under 139.5 (-110)
Covers March Madness betting analysis
Team total pick
The Badgers will have their work cut out for them to go Over their point total in this contest. They’re just 198th in the nation in effective field goal percentage, and with UNC having a number of rim protectors and shot disruptors waiting down low, opting for 3-pointers may be the key to scoring.
Wisconsin averages a modest 23.8 threes attempted per game. It has gone above that average 16 times this season, but not to great results—a 7-9 SU record and 65.9 points per game. Seven of those 3-point heavy games also came against the Big Ten’s elite, when driving to the lane and using a slow, methodical approach was not getting it done.
This is compounded by the Badgers not getting any easy points from the free-throw line either. Wisconsin is 28th in the country in shooting 76.7 percent as a team from the charity stripe, but it averages just 15.7 free throws per game, 288th in the nation. And in those 16 triple-happy games, the Badgers attempted – surprise, surprise – 13.3 free throws per contest, falling under their season average 12 times.
If that is the game script for this first-round matchup, which we anticipate it being, we really don’t see how the Badgers make it to go Over their team total.
PREDICTION: Wisconsin team total Under 68.5 (-100)
Wisconsin vs North Carolina betting card
- North Carolina -1.5 (-105)
- Under 139.5 (-110)
- Wisconsin team total Under 68.5 (-100)
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