The final two spots in the Sweet 16 from the Midwest Region are up for grabs in Sunday’s March Madness action. Will Washington’s defense be able to stop North Carolina’s high-octane offense, while two defense teams do battle when Houston takes on Ohio State. We break down the odds and totals for all three games while giving predictions and best bets.
Odds: UNC -11.5, 148 @ bet365
Start Time: 2:40 p.m. ET, Nationwide Arena, Columbus, Ohio
There are two big questions heading into this matchup are which Washington team will show up and will the Huskies’ defense be able to contain North Carolina’s high-octane offense.
Washington stumbled down the stretch but looked more like the team that won 15-of-16 at one point this season in its 78-61 opening round win over Utah State. The Huskies limited the Aggies to 35 percent shooting from the floor and forced 21 turnovers. But will they be able to keep that up against the juggernaut that is the North Carolina offense?
The Tar Heels rank third in the country in points per game at 86.1 per contest and are one of the fastest paced teams in Division I at nearly 78 possessions per game. The Tar Heels are led by Senior guard Cameron Johnson, who led the ACC and is fifth in the nation in 3-point percentage (46.5) and freshman guard Coby White. North Carolina overcame a sluggish start and dominated the second half in Friday’s 88-73 win over 16th-seeded Iona.
The only really comparable team Washington went up against this season was Gonzaga, which they put up a good fight losing 81-79. The Huskies deploy a 2-3 zone, which is comparable to that of Syracuse, which the Tar Heels were able to drop 93 points on. The key to that was North Carolina being able to beat the zone down the court and never let them get set. The strategy will be similar here. But what makes UNC so dangerous is that they still have the playmakers to attack the zone in the half court.
And while Washington ranks a formidable 19th in the KenPom adjusted defensive efficiency, eight ACC teams have similar or better ratings in that field. The Tar Heels played those teams 11 times scoring 79.9 points per game. Take the Over on their team total of 79.5.
One more thing. North Carolina is the third highest scoring second half team in the nation and their +5.2 second half road margin ranked eighth. Washington has a -4.5 second half margin on the road this season. That ranked 274th. Let’s put a play on North Carolina -4.5 on the second half spread as well.
Odds: HOU -5.5, 132
Start Time: 8:40 p.m. ET, Nationwide Arena, Columbus, Ohio
The third-seeded Cougars seek their first trip to the Sweet 16 since 1984 when they meet 11th seed Ohio State.
Houston got here on the back of its defense. It allows just 61.1 points per game (seventh best in the country) and there is no one better at getting a hand in your face than the Cougars. They limit opponents to 36.5 percent shooting from the field and a staggeringly low 27.5 percent from 3-point range.
Houston rode that defense to an 84-55 thrashing of Georgia State on Friday in the first round as senior guard Corey Davis Jr. poured in 26 points. The Cougars suffocated the Panthers, limiting them to 30 percent from the floor and 26.1 percent from beyond the arc.
Ohio State also prides itself on its defense, ranking 21st in the KenPom adjusted defensive efficiency metric and used it to upset sixth-seeded Iowa State 62-59 in Friday’s first round. Sophomore forward Kaleb Wesson led the way with 21 points and 12 rebounds, giving him three double-doubles in his last four games.
But even in that slog of a game, the Buckeyes were only able to score 63 points on 39.7 percent shooting (25 percent from 3-point range) and that was against an Iowa State team that was good but not great on the defensive end. But that should come to no surprise to anyone who has followed the Buckeyes. Since the start of Big Ten play (21 games) Ohio State has averaged just 64.1 points per game. The slow pace and the stout defense in this game should keep the Buckeyes Under their team total of 63.5.
Additionally, Houston is known for getting off to good starts. It’s +7.5 first half margin away from home was fourth best in the country. While Ohio State had a -0.8 mark in that category. Take the Cougars -3 on the first half spread.