North Carolina vs. Iona Betting Guide: Who Covers This Offensive Showdown?

North Carolina vs. Iona Betting Guide: Who Covers This Offensive Showdown? article feature image
Credit:

Credit: USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: North Carolina Tar Heels guard Cameron Johnson (13) & Iona Gaels guard E.J. Crawford (2)

#1 North Carolina vs. #16 Iona NCAA Tournament Betting Odds

  • Spread: North Carolina -22.5 
  • Over/Under: 166
  • Date: Friday, March 22
  • Time: 9:20 p.m. ET
  • TV: TNT
  • Location: Columbus, Ohio

>> All odds as of Thursday night. Download The Action Network App to get real-time odds and live win probabilities on your bets.


North Carolina (27-6) ended the season winning 14 of its past 15 games. The Tar Heels finished tied with Virginia for the ACC regular season title and were the only team to defeat Duke twice. They were 21-9-2 against the spread, including a masterful 11-2 on the road.

Iona (17-15) won its fourth straight MAAC Tournament Championship to earn the automatic NCAA Tournament bid. The Gaels had a weak non-conference schedule, ranking 200th in the country. They also did not have a win this season against a Quadrant I or Quadrant II opponent. The Gaels were just 13-16-1 ATS, including 5-10-1 on the road.

Which team offers the most value in this matchup of 1- vs. 16-seeds?

North Carolina’s Explosive & Balanced Offense

The Tar Heels own the seventh-best adjusted offensive efficiency rating in the country. In ACC Conference play, they ranked third in effective field goal percentage and second in 3P percentage. They have perfect symmetry in their point distribution, relying on 30.5% 3P, 51.7% for 2P, and 17.8% on free throws.

North Carolina’s scoring comes from its big trio of Cameron Johnson (16.9 ppg), Coby White (16.3 ppg) and Luke Maye (14.7 ppg). All three shoot 76% or better from the free throw line and attempted over 100 3Ps this year.  The Tar Heels offense is very difficult to stop.

But their best offensive skill is rebounding. North Carolina ranks 18th in the nation with 13.1 offensive rebounds per game. They pose a big challenge to an Iona team that ranks 261st in defensive rebounding percentage.

Iona Only Knows One Gear

The Gaels know only one speed, and that’s high gear. Iona ranked first in the MAAC in points per game, adjusted offensive efficiency, 2P% and free throw percentage. Iona scored 73 points or more in each of its past five games. The Gaels are decent from 3P, shooting 36.5% in conference play, and they were second best in offensive turnover percentage.

Iona has balanced scoring, led by junior E.J. Crawford (17.9 ppg) and senior Rickey McGill (15.5 ppg). However, it is difficult to project any success for the Gaels against a team of North Carolina’s caliber, especially with a 274th strength of schedule and 2-4 record against Quadrant III opponents.

Head coach Tim Cluess is a brilliant tactician, but the talent differential here is too great.

The Pick

The type of first-round opponent that could put a scare into North Carolina would be a team with a slow and methodical offense paired with a stout defense. The Tar Heels barely escaped Harvard in 2015 in that exact situation. Unfortunately for the Gaels, they don’t play with that style.

Mike’s Pick:  UNC -22.5, would bet up to UNC -24.5

Our Projected Odds: North Carolina vs. Iona

Get point spreads for this game and every possible tournament matchup with our bracket simulator built by Sean Koerner, our Director of Predictive Analytics, a former oddsmaker and FantasyPros’ most accurate in-season fantasy football ranker from 2015-2017.

  • Spread: North Carolina -25
  • Over/Under: 158
  • Score: North Carolina 91.5 | Iona 66.5
  • Win Probability: North Carolina 99.3% | Iona 0.7%

Editor’s note: The opinions on this game is from the individual writer and are based on his research, analysis and perspective. They are independent of, and may not always match with, the algorithm-driven Best Bets from Sports Insights.

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