The No. 8 seed North Carolina Tar Heels are in the NCAA Tournament in the first season of the Hubert Davis era, and the No. 9 seed Marquette Golden Eagles have done the same in Year 1 under Shaka Smart. The two will meet in the East region of the bracket on Thursday, March 17th at 4:30 p.m. ET in a game that can be seen on TBS with the Tar Heels as slight favorites.
No. 8 North Carolina: 24-9 (15-5 ACC): AT-LARGE
KenPom rating: 29 Overall, 27 Offense, 64 Defense
NET ranking: 31, (3-8 VS Quad 1)
Leading scorer: Armando Bacot (16.5 ppg)
Key stat: North Carolina led the ACC in free throw shooting percentage at 77.2%.
The North Carolina Tar Heels were a bubble team just a few weeks ago, but they went on a run that included spoiling Mike Krzyzewski’s final game at Cameron Indoor to easily land a spot in the dance. North Carolina rebounds as well as almost any team in the country, and that should play a significant role in this matchup. Watch for the Tar Heels to attack the rim often as they get to the line a lot, and they make free throws.
No. 9 Marquette: 19-12 (11-8 Big East): AT-LARGE
KenPom rating: 47 Overall, 62 Offense, 46 Defense
NET ranking: 42 (5-7 VS Quad 1)
Leading scorer: Justin Lewis (17.1 ppg)
Key stat: Justin Lewis is the Big East’s third leading scorer and fourth leading rebounder.
The Marquette Golden Eagles have not won an NCAA Tournament game in nearly a decade, but early returns of the Smart era are certainly positive as they were not expected to get here prior to the start of the season. The Golden Eagles have been an inconsistent team this season, following a four-game losing streak with seven wins in a row. Watch for Tyler Kolek to be creative in getting the ball to Marquette’s playmakers. The George Mason transfer led the Big East in assists this season.
Odds from DraftKings Sportsbook
Point spread: North Carolina -3.5
Point total: 152.5
Moneyline: North Carolina -170, Marquette +150
Against The Spread Pick: North Carolina -3.5
Point total pick: Under 152
Pick to Win: North Carolina
The Tar Heels will have an advantage on the offensive end, but the biggest reason North Carolina will cover this number is rebounding. North Carolina ranks No. 9 nationally in rebounding margin, while Marquette checks in at No. 324 in that stat. Both teams run a faster-than-average style of offense, but 152 points is too high so let’s take the under.
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