The North Carolina Tar Heels started this season ranked No. 1 in the country and one of the heavy favorites to win this year’s national title. A few setbacks along the way have the No. 7-ranked Tar Heels still trying to work their way back to top of the polls, but when it comes to their future odds, they remain neck-and-neck with Kentucky as the odds-on-favorite to win it all.
North Carolina notched its 16th victory of the season this past Thursday night with an 82-68 romp over Virginia Tech as a 6.5-point road favorite. The victory helped to erase the memory of one of the worst defeats in recent history when the Tar Heels were thumped by Florida State, 90-57, the previous Saturday as six-point road favorites.
North Carolina is now 16-3 straight-up (SU) on the year and 10-8 against the spread (ATS). It is a perfect 12-0 SU at home, but just 6-5 ATS. The total has gone an even 9-9 in its 18 games with a posted line.
There is little doubt that the Tar Heels have one of the most potent offenses in the nation. They are ranked first in scoring with an average of 85.1 points a game and are shooting 47.6 percent from the field.
Some of the weaker points of this offense is a 35.1 percent conversion rate from three-point range and an even more concerning 64.7 percent rate from the foul line.
North Carolina is also the best rebounding team in the country with an average of 46.3 boards a game. These second and third chances go along way at wearing an opponent down on both ends of the court, which help make up for some of these shooting weaknesses.
Individually the Tar Heels big three consists of Harrison Barnes, John Henson, and Tyler Zeller. Barnes is averaging 17.4 points a game and Henson and Zeller are each chipping in an average of 14.5 points a game. These two are also combining for close to 20 rebounds a game while hitting 54 percent of their shots from the floor.
Overall, North Carolina has great depth with eight players averaging at least 13 minutes of playing time a game.
Team Betting Trends
North Carolina has just one SU loss in its last 11 games, but it has been tough to wager on with a 6-5 record ATS during the same span. The Tar Heels are 7-5 ATS in 12 games as double-digit favorites. They have played only one game this season as underdogs and they easily covered with the 6.5 points on the road in a 73-72 loss to Kentucky. North Carolina is 3-1 SU in conference play and 2-2 ATS.
The total has stayed "under" in seven of 11 games at home, but has gone "over" in three of four games on the road. The total has gone "over" in four of the Tar Heels' last six games overall.
There probably has been some genuine concern about the recent meltdown against Florida State, but these things happen to the best of teams over the course of a long and grueling regular season.
The real concern should probably be directed at the Seminoles themselves after they knocked off Duke, 76-73, this past Saturday on the road as 10.5-point underdogs. What appeared to be a two-horse race between the Tar Heels and the Blue Devils to the top of the ACC suddenly has another legitimate contender that has streaked to the front of the pack.
This upcoming Thursday night will be another interesting test for the Tar Heels with in-state rival North Carolina State coming to town for the first of this season’s home-and-home series. The Wolfpack have reeled off nine SU victories in their past 10 games and are a healthy 5-3 ATS in their last eight games. It could be a good night to lay off North Carolina and just sit back and enjoy the game.
There are still two dates with Duke looming on the slate; Wednesday, Feb.8 at home and March 3 on the road in the regular season finale. These two games will go a long way at not just determining the ACC regular season champion, but in showing which team is in best position for a potential No. 1 seed for the NCAA tournament.
The overall consensus on North Carolina is to remain bullish on its chances to bring home a national title as this is a legitimate Final Four team, but take a cautious approach when wagering on the Tar Heels over the course of the rest of the regular season.
They have shown the ability to keep the tough games close as was the case against Kentucky. The problem is that they also have a bad habit of letting inferior teams hang around longer than they should, which can be murder on the bankroll over the long haul.
Doc Moseman is the owner of Doc's Sports, and you can follow up with all his college basketball insight here.
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