Marquette vs. UNC Odds, Picks, Predictions: Can Heels Cover Spread In NCAA Tournament First Round?
Grant Halverson/Getty Images. Pictured: Armando Bacot.
- Will Marquette be able to stop Armando Bacot? Will UNC be able to limit Justin Lewis?
- Find Marquette vs. UNC odds followed by picks and predictions in our preview to betting this NCAA Tournament first-round matchup below.
Marquette vs. North Carolina Odds
-110o / -110u
|North Carolina Odds|
-110o / -110u
This game pits two head coaches in their first year on the job, in very different circumstances.
Hubert Davis inherited the North Carolina gig after his legendary boss Roy Williams stepped aside into retirement. Some questioned handing over a job as coveted as UNC to a first-time head coach, yet Davis has mostly looked the part so far this season.
Shaka Smart landed back in his home state of Wisconsin after six years without an NCAA Tournament win at Texas. For a program in transition, Marquette has impressed. A tournament appearance in year one — with a team ranking 349th in KenPom’s experience metric — is no small feat.
Either coach’s first season would look a lot sweeter with an NCAA Tournament win as the cherry on top.
Marquette’s emergence from the muck in the middle of the Big East to an NCAA Tournament-worthy team has been built upon the back of sophomore star Justin Lewis.
Early in the season, he was less aggressive and less effective. In 14 games on or before Jan. 1, Lewis averaged 15.2 points on 12.9 field goal attempts and shot 25.8% from 3.
In Marquette’s 13 most recent games, Lewis is up to 19.6 points on 15.0 attempts per game, and is shooting nearly 44% from outside the arc. He has developed into a game-changing type of player, capable of elevating the play of those around him.
Unleashing Lewis to this degree has raised Marquette’s offensive ceiling to new heights.
If the Golden Eagles can match that new offensive success with stops on the defensive end of the floor, they have the tools to compete in March.
Smart has a mixed bag on the defensive side, with some elite defenders like Darryl Morsell and Kur Kuath and a few squeaky wheels. Making the adjustments to address that imbalance could be what makes or breaks this team this month.
One of the biggest wild cards in the nation, North Carolina made a big push at the end of the season, going from a bubble team to firmly in the 8-9 seed range.
Don’t let the seeding fool you. This is a very dangerous 8-seed. The Heels possess an offense that can out shoot anyone and relentlessly attack the boards for second chance opportunities.
They also can easily lose by 20-plus points when they shoot colder than an igloo from deep, as their defense is not strong. When UNC is unable to put up points, it falls in deep lulls, creating deficits that may be too far to overcome.
Not all hope is lost for the defense, as it appeared to be earlier this season.
This unit has drastically improved over the course of the last couple of weeks. The Heels once were ranked comfortably over 100th in AdjD, but they have seen their numbers drastically improve, finishing the year at 64th.
The North Carolina identity may be a tough matchup for Marquette, as the Heels will look to push the pace and not allow the Golden Eagles to set up their defense.
Star big man Armando Bacot is poised for a big game, as Marquette rebounds at one of the lowest rates in the Big East. If UNC’s shots are unable to fall, the second chance opportunities will be there, as long as Bacot stays out of foul trouble.
Marquette vs. North Carolina Betting Pick
This game will be decided by the big men on either side. Marquette was the worst rebounding team in the Big East, on both ends of the floor.
On the offensive end, Smart had his team nearly abandon the concept of offensive rebounding in favor of setting up transition defense. Defensively, the Golden Eagles allowed opposing teams to nab over 31% of their misses in Big East play.
Some of that was due to playing 6-foot-7 Lewis at center, which he’s done 53% of the time over Marquette’s last five games, per KenPom. Some is likely due to Kuath overextending to block shots instead of prepping for a rebound.
Whatever the case may be, Bacot should eat on the glass in this game, if he avoids foul trouble. He’ll feast on put backs and look to kick out to shooters for second-chance 3s.
Marquette wants to play fast, but that’s not on the table without securing stops with a rebound. Carolina should win and cover.