The North Carolina Tar Heels had plenty of issues earlier in the season but look to be playing their best basketball of the year as they head the Carrier Dome to face the Syracuse Orange on Monday night.
Oddsmakers are expecting a tight battle between these ACC rivals, with college basketball betting lines opening with UNC as a slim 1-point road favorite before that number ticked up to -2.
Here are our best free North Carolina vs. Syracuse picks and predictions for Monday, March 1, with tipoff at 7 p.m. ET.
North Carolina Tar Heels at Syracuse Orange betting preview
North Carolina: Puff Johnson G (Out).
Syracuse: Bourama Sidibe C (Out), Frank Anselem C (Out).
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Betting trend to know
The Orange are 2-9 ATS in their last 11 home games against teams with a winning road record. Find more NCAA betting trends for North Carolina vs. Syracuse.
NCAAB sharp money and line movement reportBy Patrick Everson
FanDuel opened North Carolina a 1-point road favorite, moved to -2 by late Sunday evening, spent a few hours today at -1.5 and got to -2.5 by midafternoon. As of 6:30 p.m. ET, about 30 minutes before tipoff, point-spread ticket count is 4/1 and money 3/1 on the Tar Heels. The total is up to 151.5 from a 149.5 opener, with 56 percent of bets on the Under, but 68 percent of money on the Over.Check out the full line movement for this game
Against the spread (ATS) pick
The Tar Heels are coming off their biggest win of the season: a come-from-behind victory against the ACC-leading Florida State Seminoles, where they outscored the 'Noles 49-29 during the second half. They are now 3-1 SU and ATS in their last four games and could crack the AP Top 25 Poll, released later today, after sitting just outside the rankings last week.
Syracuse is coming off back-to-back losses to Georgia Tech and Duke and is 4-4 SU and 2-6 ATS in its previous eight games. The Orange have been strong offensively, ranking second in the ACC with 76.3 points per game, but have struggled on the defensive end of the floor, ranking 13th by allowing 71.6 ppg. They've also struggled in the paint, allowing opponents to shoot 50.3 percent from two-point range and ranking 221st in the country in rebounding rate.
That could make the difference in this contest with how dominant North Carolina has been down low. UNC ranks third in the country in rebounding rate and its rebounding margin of plus-10.3 rpg leads the conference—and is almost twice as much as second-place Louisville.
The Tar Heels three best players are big men Armando Bacot, Garrison Brooks and Day'Ron Sharpe. And if that's not enough, seven-foot-one freshman Walker Kessler enjoyed a breakout game against FSU, putting up 20 points and eight rebounds.
Syracuse has gone a dominant 11-1 SU at home this year, so it might be tempting to side with Jim Boeheim's squad with the points. That said, the Orange have enjoyed a pretty easy home schedule this season and have never been installed as the underdogs. In their previous six contests getting points at home, they've gone just 1-5 ATS.
The Tar Heels have also owned this series in recent history, defeating the Orange 81-75 earlier this season and going 10-1 SU in the last 11 games head-to-head–including the previous three meetings at the Carrier Dome. With Roy Williams' team hitting its stride at the right time and the Tar Heels' big advantage in the paint, look for them to win and cover.
PREDICTION: North Carolina -2 (-110)
The Orange are well known for their 2-3 zone defense under Boeheim but this year's version of Syracuse hasn't looked sharp on the defensive end of the floor—and has given up 84.5 ppg on 51.5 percent shooting in its last two games.
The Tar Heels might be built around their big men but they've also played at a quick pace, ranking 45th in the country in adjusted tempo according to KenPom. They've scored at least 75 points in eight of their last 10 conference games and lead the nation with 13.4 offensive rebounds per game, meaning that they'll get plenty of second chances.
North Carolina is 5-2 O/U in its last seven games overall while Syracuse is 20-6 to the Over in its last previous 26 contests against teams with a winning percentage above .600. With the Over also cashing in six of the last eight games in the head-to-head, take it again.
PREDICTION: Over 149.5 (-110)
North Carolina vs Syracuse betting card
- North Carolina -2 (-110)
- Over 149.5 (-110)
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