March Madness in North Carolina may as well be a national holiday. Across the entire state, no one is thinking about work and everyone is thinking about basketball.
The Tar Heel fans are hoping Coach K’s final Dance ends in a first-round upset. The Blue Devil fans are still steamed UNC rookie head coach Hubert Davis beat St. Mike in his Cameron Indoor finale. And neither fan base is thinking much about Davidson, which might be playing better than both of them.
The fun starts Thursday at 4:30 p.m. when No. 8 seed North Carolina squares off against No. 9 Marquette in an East Region game in Ft. Worth, Texas. No. 2 Duke plays No. 15 CSU Fullerton on Friday at 7:10 p.m. in Greenville, South Carolina, and No. 10 Davidson vs No. 7 Michigan State follows at 9:40 p.m., making for a convenient doubleheader of Carolina teams, and a potential Sunday matchup. Greenville is the West Regional.
North Carolina sports betting is limited to two retail Caesars sportsbooks at the Harrah’s Cherokee Casinos in western North Carolina.
Odds for NC Schools to Win NCAA Tournament
EDITOR'S NOTE: Odds are from Caesars Sportsbook. There are two Caesars retail sportsbooks at Cherokee casinos in the western part of the state.
Tar Heels Favored Over Marquette
UNC finished 24-9 but was 12-3 after Jan. 24, as the young team started to mesh. The only really bad loss was to an 11-21 Pittsburgh team, and it has wins over four teams ranked higher than 19-12 Marquette, which lost six of 10 down the stretch.
The Tar Heels are led by 6-foot-4 soph Caleb Love, 6-10 junior Armando Bacot and 6-9 senior Brady Manek. Marquette is led by 6-7 freshman Justin Lewis and 6-5 senior Darryl Morsell. Both teams like to push the ball. Carolina is now coached by Tar Heels legend Hubert Davis. Shaka Smart, who became a March Madness favorite when he coached VCU, is in his first season at Marquette.
The Lines: North Carolina -3, ML -150, over/under 152.
Coach K's Final Run Begins
A 28-6 Duke team shouldn’t have much trouble with 21-10 Cal State Fullerton out of the Big West. The Titans have no wins against Top 100 teams this year but played reasonably close in three losses.
Fullerton does start three seniors, and its go-to guy is 6-7 EJ Anoskie. Coach Dedrique Taylor is in his 9th season with the team. It was also a 15-seed in 2018. Coach K is wrapping up his 42nd and final season at Duke and CBS will be following his every move and rhapsodizing poetically as long as Duke can stay in play.
Duke is very talented — of course — but very young, starting three freshmen, a sophomore and a junior. Paolo Banchero, a 6-10 freshman, is one of the top players in the country.
The Lines: Duke -18½, ML -4000, over/under 146.
Don't Overlook Davidson
Davidson finished 27-6, but two of its losses came in mid-November, and two of the losses since were by two points each.
The Wildcats are tough, and Coach Bob McKillop is a respected veteran who has been leading Davidson since 1989. It’s sacrilege to mention him in the same sentence as Dean, Roy and Mike, but his 634 wins at a small school near Charlotte make him as elite as they get. Ask Steph Curry.
In what might be the top first-round coaching matchup of the NCAAs, McKillop will go up against Tom Izzo and his 22-12 Michigan State Spartans. The Spartans are physical and experienced, defend, and share the ball. Just like Davidson. Duke will want no part of either of these teams on Sunday.
The Lines: Davidson +1½, ML +100, over/under 140½.