NCAA Tournament odds: No. 9 Villanova vs. No. 8 North Carolina

It’s been a bit of a disappointing season for North Carolina, but the last time the Heels were a No. 8 seed they went to the Final Four in 2000. And the previous five times UNC and Villanova have played in the Big Dance, the winner went to the Final Four. UNC opened as a 4-point favorite for Friday’s game in Kansas City. Check our current lines.

Villanova sweated an at-large bid but did beat three top-five teams this year, all in Philadelphia. JayVaughn Pinkston is the team’s best player, but Mouphtaou Yarou is the most consistent. Villanova counts on Pinkston to make things happen when he touches the ball, and he leads the team in scoring. Yarou is one of only 10 players in school history to notch 1,000 points and 800 rebounds. He has developed a consistent midrange game and is more comfortable facing the basket. Guard James Bell is as important as he is inconsistent. The Wildcats lost only twice in the regular season when he scored 10-plus points. The junior is a solid 3-point shooter and high-flyer.

North Carolina is 8-2 since Coach Roy Williams inserted P.J. Hairston into the starting lineup, giving the Heels four guards. The high-octane Heels, the nation’s No. 12 scoring team (77 PPG), are built for speed with Marcus Paige pushing the ball up the court. James Michael McAdoo, a natural forward, is a matchup nightmare for most opposing centers. However, the new starting lineup resembles the mid-major teams or below that the Tar Heels usually chew up and spit out in Round 1 — with a 6-foot-9 pivot in McAdoo, three mid-sized athletes and a talented point guard in Paige.

Carolina leads the all-time series with Villanova, 10-4. UNC has won both of the last two meetings and six of the last eight (since early in the 1989-90 season). Carolina is making its 44th NCAA Tournament appearance, second-most in history. The Tar Heels have played in 149 NCAA Tournament games and won 108, both of which totals are second in NCAA history. UNC’s Tournament winning percentage of .725 (108-41) is third in history. Carolina has played in 18 Final Fours, more than any school in the nation. In Carolina’s NCAA Tournament history, the program has faced three squads more than any other: Kansas (Carolina is 2-3 all-time in NCAA play), Michigan State (5-0) and Villanova (4-1).

The winner of Friday’s game will advance to Sunday’s third round to play the winner of Friday’s game between No. 1 seed Kansas and No. 16 seed Western Kentucky. Of course Williams is the former coach of Kansas. A win against Villanova would make Williams the fourth active Division I coach in the nation to win 700 games and the 21st in NCAA history.

WagerWeb.com trends: Wildcats are 5-12 ATS in their last 17 neutral site games. Wildcats are 1-10 ATS in their last 11 Friday games. Wildcats are 0-4 ATS in their last 4 NCAA Tournament games. Tar Heels are 7-3 ATS in their last 10 games vs. a team with a winning S.U. record. Tar Heels are 13-6 ATS in their last 19 NCAA Tournament games. Tar Heels are 2-5 ATS in their last 7 neutral site games.

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