The third-ranked Virginia Cavaliers (21-6) likely will not reside in that spot next week. But the Cavaliers also will be looking to prevent the ACC-leading North Carolina Tar Heels (23-5) from moving up from their current ranking of seventh when they host them on Saturday as consensus 3.5-point betting favorites at sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark.
While it is highly debatable whether or not the ACC champion will earn a No. 1 seed when the NCAA tournament field is announced on Selection Sunday, past history shows there is a good chance that will happen based on the competitiveness of the conference.
Right now, North Carolina leads the 11th-ranked Louisville Cardinals and 12th-ranked Miami Hurricanes by one game atop the standings at 12-3, with Virginia tied with the 15th-ranked Duke Blue Devils and 23rd-ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish for fourth at 10-5. That makes six ACC teams in the top 25 overall.
The Cavs are coming off a tough 64-61 road loss to the Hurricanes as two-point underdogs on Monday, which is their second setback in three games, with both decided by three points or less. In fact, five of their six losses this season have been decided by five or less, and they covered the spread in four straight before falling at Virginia.
The Tar Heels have won two in a row since losing at home to the Blue Devils, 74-73, as 8.5-point favorites on February 17. They routed Miami, 96-71, as 7.5-point home chalk last Saturday and followed that victory up with an 80-68 win over the North Carolina State Wolfpack as eight-point road favorites on Wednesday.
In addition, North Carolina is 3-1 against the spread in its last four games, after going 1-6 ATS in its previous seven.
These teams have not met since the semifinals of last year’s ACC tournament, when the fifth-seeded Heels upset the top-seeded Cavs, 71-67, as 4.5-point underdogs.
Virginia had won the previous two regular-season matchups both straight up and ATS, according to the Odds Shark College Basketball Database. North Carolina is just 4-10 ATS in the past 14 meetings despite going 10-4 SU in those games.