North Carolina vs. Washington Betting Guide: Do Heels Have Recipe to Break Huskies’ Zone?

North Carolina vs. Washington Betting Guide: Do Heels Have Recipe to Break Huskies’ Zone? article feature image
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USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Cameron Johnson and David Crisp

  • A complete breakdown of North Carolina-Washington, complete with Ken Barkley's betting pick.

#1 North Carolina vs. #9 Washington: NCAA Tournament Betting Odds

  • Spread: UNC -11.5
  • Over/Under: 148
  • Date: Sunday, March 24
  • Time: 2:40 p.m. ET
  • TV: CBS
  • Location: Columbus, Ohio

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


North Carolina may have struggled for a half with Iona (which was hitting every 3 imaginable), but that didn’t last, as the Tar Heels exerted their dominance over the course of the second half to pull away.

Washington’s first-round blowout was far less expected, as it was a 3.5-point underdog entering its 17-point win over Utah State. Can Washington come up with another spectacular effort to knock off a true contender?

North Carolina Has Seen Washington’s Defense

UNC is going to see a defense it faces in the ACC, and that’s a bonus. Longtime Syracuse assistant Mike Hopkins has instilled a lot of the same principles at Washington, and has talented players to execute the scheme. The infamous 2-3 zone can give teams headaches, but Carolina’s offense had no such issues with it against Syracuse this year, putting up 90-plus points despite very lackluster 3-point shooting numbers.

The 2-3 zone does a great job generally of limiting 3s and lay-ups, and forces offenses to run what may be a very basic “zone-beating” offense, as opposed to the more unique schemes that can be run against man-to-man defense.

Carolina has two big edges against a zone. First, guard Coby White can attack via the drive either to score or to dish — and he was very successful against Syracuse doing just that.

Second, and most importantly, Luke Maye is the ideal big man to “flash” to the foul line, in the middle of the zone, receive the pass, and either score or pass to a teammate. Against Syracuse, he led the team with six assists, and he has a good mid-range game. His skill set is ideal for this role, and could be a key to a Carolina victory over the Huskies.

Lastly, UNC is always an excellent offensive rebounding team, and because of the zone, those opportunities will always be there. Washington was 345th in the country in offensive rebounding allowed, so this may be the most glaring statistical mismatch in the game.

When Washington Has The Ball

The Huskies need to hope they shoot it as well as they did Friday night, when they made 10-of-17 three-pointers against Utah State. Washington isn’t a bad 3-point shooting team, so it wasn’t a complete outlier performance, but 58.8% is just very unlikely to be repeated.

One thing Washington probably won’t have to worry about as much is getting turned over. Against Utah State, the Huskies’ big lead evaporated quickly because of their total inability to handle the Aggies pressure (which was a great second-half adjustment by Utah State).

Once David Crisp fouled out it got even worse. Carolina is unlikely to be as successful with that strategy, or even to implement it.

How I’m Betting Washington-UNC

The raw metrics, as well as the very specific unit-vs.-unit differences, all lead to a commanding UNC victory. The bad news is the market absolutely reflects that, and I see no value in the side at the current numbers. There isn’t meaningful injury or fatigue information that would be unaccounted for — or inaccurately accounted for, either.

The good news is that as far as the total, I think what the Utah State game showed us is that Washington can be sped up to play an up-and-down game.

However Utah State wanted to play that game speed-wise, Washington just kind of came along for the ride.

Against Carolina, the frenetic pace may be contagious, as well, which could lead to a lot of run-out opportunities for both teams. Carolina’s offensive possessions should lead to a LOT of close-range shots and offensive rebounds. Washington should be able to get decent looks despite some of their deficiencies.

If the pace cooperates, which I think it will, there is a little bit of value in this over at any number lower than 150.

The Bet: Washington-UNC over 148

Sean Koerner’s North Carolina-Washington Projections

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 -12
  • Total: 141.5
  • Proj Score: North Carolina 77 | Washington 65
  • Win Probability: North Carolina 88.2% | Washington 11.8%

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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