North Carolina's task will be tougher in the second round as they face the Washington Huskies, who played a very strong game and defeated Utah State to earn this date with the No. 1 seed in the Midwest Region.
A number of the highest seeds struggled in the first half of their opening games, including Duke, who trailed by seven, Virginia, who trailed by 14 and North Carolina, who trailed by eight. But all three woke up in the second half, including the Tar Heels, who ended up with a comfortable 88-73 win over Iona.
They employ a trick two-three zone with a strong defence. Can they slow down the Tar Heels and pull the upset?
Washington vs. North Carolina March Madness Betting Odds Analysis
Location: Nationwide Arena – Columbus, Ohio
The Huskies are now 8-3 ATS in their last 11 NCAA Tournament games. They are also 11-5-1 ATS in their last 17 against teams with a winning record. However, the Round of 64 cover was just their second in their last eight games.
North Carolina failed to cover their opener but is still 4-1 ATS in their last five games. They are also 10-4 ATS in their last 14 against teams with a winning record. They’ve dominated the Pac-12 in recent years, going 13-3-1 ATS in their last 17 against them.
Washington suffers from too many turnovers
The Huskies controlled Utah State from start to finish, except for a few minor blips. They hit 10-of-17 three-pointers and 18-of-21 free throws, while also forcing 21 Utah State turnovers. This is about as good of a game as they team can play, which gives the impression that they’re clicking right now. Their main weakness in the Round of 64 was 15 turnovers, which against North Carolina will result in a lot of points conceded and a lopsided loss.
The three-point line figures to be how this game is won or lost. Their two-three zone defence will bait North Carolina into shooting lots of threes and if they settle, that could be a big advantage to the Huskies. North Carolina is best when it goes to the basket and gets dribble drives in open areas of the court. If the Washington zone defence makes North Carolina complacent and leads the Tar Heels to launch a lot of threes, it could play right into Washington’s hands.
North Carolina’s rebound numbers best in nation
The North Carolina Tar Heels were trailing Iona at the half, 38-33, allowing the Gaels to hit nine of their first 18 three-point shots. Iona also did not allow any points off turnovers in the first half, a sign of the fact that North Carolina wasn’t bothering the Iona offence very much and also that the Tar Heels weren’t able to run the floor and get out in transition where they are especially effective.
What we’ve learned here is that North Carolina’s offence is closely linked to their defence. When Iona was hitting shots, it limited the Tar Heels’ ability of to run. It is far easier to run off a missed shot and North Carolina wasn’t playing defence tough enough to force Iona into a lot of misses. Washington is a disciplined defensive team – especially in half-court sets – but they’re not a great offensive team. Washington hit just 45.3% of their field goals this season, which ranked them in a tie for 121st. They shot 49% in their opener, so if North Carolina drags them back down to their season average or below, that will mean plenty of missed shots and plenty of chances to run.
The Tar Heels figure to have a huge edge in rebounding here too as they lead the country in that category (43.5 per game). Washington is one of the worst rebounding teams in the nation, ranking 331st (31.6 per game).
Unless Washington shoots close to 50% again or North Carolina has really bad nights shooting and rebounding the ball, the Tar Heels should comfortably win.
Washington vs. North Carolina: A Final Score Prediction
Tar Heels 79, Huskies 61