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NCAA Tournament 2021 – #8 North Carolina Tar Heels vs. #9 Wisconsin Badgers

The NCAA Tournament is upon us, and the First Round features a matchup between the 8-seed North Carolina Tar Heels (18-10) and the 9-seed Wisconsin Badgers (17-12). Friday’s contest marks the third time these two storied programs have met up in the NCAA Tournament, each with one victory against the other. The contest’s tipoff is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. EST inside Mackey Arena in West Lafayette, IN. North Carolina is a 1.5-point favorite over the Badgers, according to oddsmakers.

What to Know – North Carolina Tar Heels

North Carolina relied on a nucleus of young talent this season, and it showed in their overall record. The Tar Heels didn’t put together a typical UNC season but still finished the season fifth in the ACC. North Carolina wrapped up the season with a 2-4 record against top 25 opponents.

The Tar Heels enter the tournament averaging 75.7 points per game while shooting 44.1% from the field and 31.7% from beyond the arc. North Carolina’s defense holds opponents to 69.4 points per game, 42.1% shooting from the field, and 34.5% shooting from three.

After winning their first two games in the conference tournament, the Tar Heels fell in the semifinals to Florida State, 69-66. The Tar Heels fought back from an 11-point halftime deficit to put the pressure on the Seminoles late, even taking a five-point lead at the midway point in the second half. Freshman guard Caleb Love led the Tar Heels with 13 points, knocking down 3-of-5 threes. North Carolina shot only 33.8% from the field and 56% from the free-throw line.

North Carolina are 13-13-2 against the spread heading into the tournament but 6-2-1 over their last nine games. The Tar Heels are 2-5 ATS this season in neutral-site contests and 1-4 ATS over their last five games versus Big Ten opponents.

What to Know – Wisconsin Badgers

Wisconsin makes its 25th appearance in the NCAA Tournament, appearing every year since the new millennium but in 2018. The Badgers dropped five of their last six games entering the Big Ten Tournament before knocking off Penn State and falling to Iowa in the quarterfinals. Wisconsin was a six-seed in the conference tournament.

The Badgers score 69.6 points per game, behind 42.1% shooting from the floor and 36% shooting from the arc. Defensively, Wisconsin surrenders 64.3 points per game and holds teams to 42.3% shooting from the field and 33% from three.

Wisconsin built up a six-point halftime lead before a second-half surge by the Hawkeyes ended the Badgers’ conference tournament. Senior guard D’Mitrik Trice scored 19 points to lead Wisconsin, shooting 8-of-17 from the field. Senior forward Micah Potter came off the bench to add 17 points and eight rebounds. The Badgers shot 38.6% from the field and lost the turnover battle, 148.

The Badgers are 13-15-1 ATS and 3-6-1 in their last ten games. Wisconsin is 1-4 against ACC opponents over their last five games and is 1-1 in neutral site games.

The Pick is In

Two elite programs go at it with contrasting rosters. The Tar Heels lean on a young core while the Badgers dominate with upper-level students. Wisconsin seems to always fare well in the tournament, and while the Tar Heels are talented, the veteran group will prevail here.

The Pick: Wisconsin Badgers +1.5

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