West Regional Semifinals: #1 Wisconsin Badgers vs #4 North Carolina Tar Heels

2015 NCAA Tournament
West Regional Semifinals
#1 Wisconsin Badgers vs #4 North Carolina Tar Heels
Staples Center – Los Angeles, California
Thursday, March 26, 2015, 7:47 pm Eastern, TV: TBS
Opening Line: Wisconsin -5
Current Line: Wisconsin -6 1/2
Opening Total: 142
Current Total: 145
Opening Money Line: Wisconsin -240 / North Carolina +200
Current Money Line: Wisconsin -290 / North Carolina +240

Wisconsin is a 6.5 point favorite against North Carolina in the Sweet 16 Thursday night in LA.
Wisconsin is a 6.5 point favorite against North Carolina in the Sweet 16 Thursday night in LA.

The 33-3 Wisconsin Badgers and 26-11 North Carolina Tar Heels meet in the West Regional Semifinals Thursday in Los Angeles. The winner will play either the #2 Arizona Wildcats or #6 Xavier Musketeers in the Elite 8 Saturday.

North Carolina leads the series 2-0 against Wisconsin including the last game in 2011. The two teams met in the 2005 NCAA Tournament Elite 8.

North Carolina went 11-7 in the ACC and finished in fifth place. The Tar Heels lost to Notre Dame 90-82 in the ACC Championship game. North Carolina beat Harvard 67-65 in the second round and Arkansas 87-78 in the third round Saturday both in Jacksonville. UNC is making their 46th trip to the tournament and 11th straight. The Tar Heels have five national titles the last in 2009. North Carolina is in the sweet 16 for the first time since 2012. UNC went 11-10 against NCAA Tournament teams this season.

Wisconsin won the Big Ten by two games at 16-2. The Badgers won the Big Ten Tournament by beating Michigan State 80-69 in overtime in the championship game. Wisconsin beat Coastal Carolina 86-72 in the second round and Oregon 72-65 in the third round Sunday, both in Omaha. The Badgers are making their 17th straight trip to the tournament and 21st overall. Wisconsin is making their eighth trip to the Sweet 16 since 2000.  Wisconsin went 13-2 against NCAA Tournament teams this season.

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North Carolina is coached by Roy Williams. The Tar Heels have  neutral site losses to Butler in a tournament in the Bahamas and Notre Dame in the ACC tournament, home losses to Iowa, Notre Dame, Virginia, NC State and Duke, plus road losses at Kentucky, Louisville, Pittsburgh and Duke. The Tar Heels have key wins over Davidson in Charlotte, UCLA and Florida in the Bahamas, Ohio State in Chicago, Boston College, Louisville, and Virginia in the ACC Tournament  home wins over East Carolina, UAB, William & Mary, Louisville, Virginia Tech, Florida State, Syracuse, and Georgia Tech,  along with road wins over Clemson, North Carolina State, Wake Forest, Boston College, Miami and Georgia Tech. North Carolina is 20-16-1 ATS and the total is 20-14-1 this season. The Tar Heels were 5 point favorites against Arkansas and the total was 158.

Wisconsin is coached by Bo Ryan. The Badgers have a home loss to Duke and road losses to Rutgers and Maryland. The Badgers have won 18 of the last 19 games, including 8 straight. Wisconsin has key home wins over Green Bay, Boise State, Buffalo, Penn State, Purdue, Nebraska, Iowa, Indiana, Northwestern, Illinois, Minnesota and Michigan State, neutral site wins over UAB, Georgetown and Oklahoma in a tournament in the Bahamas, Michigan, Purdue, and Michigan State in the Big Ten Tournament plus road wins over Marquette, Milwaukee, Cal, Northwestern, Michigan, Iowa, Nebraska, Penn State, Minnesota and Ohio State. The Badgers are 18-17-1 ATS and the total is 16-20 this season. Wisconsin was a 12 point favorite over Oregon and the total was 143.

North Carolina is outscoring teams 78-69 this season. The Tar Heels are #18 nationally in scoring. North Carolina is shooting 47.1% from the field including 32.8% from 3 point range. UNC is #38 nationally in field goal percentage. The Tar Heels make 68.9% of their free throws. Opponents are shooting 39.4% from the field and 30% from 3 point range. UNC is in the top 35 nationally in both categories. The Tar Heels average 42.2 rebounds per game and allow 29.6. UNC is #2 nationally in rebounding. The Tar Heels average 17.8 assists, 12.5 turnovers, 6.8 steals and 4.5 blocks per game. Opponents average 12.6 assists, 12.4 turnovers, 6.7 steals and 4.4 blocks per game.

UNC guard Marcus Paige averages 13.3 points, 3 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 1.4 steals per game. Forward Kennedy Meeks averages 12.8 points, 7.8 rebounds, 1 assist and 1.4 blocks per game. He is doubtful with a knee injury. Forward Brice Johnson averages 12.5 points, 7.8 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game. Justin Jackson averages 9.8 points, 3.8 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game. J.P. Tokoto averages 8.7 points, 5.3 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 1.4 steals per game. Four other Tar Heels average at least 12 minutes per game. Forwards Sasha Seymore and Desmond Hubert are out for the season.

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Wisconsin is outscoring teams 72-56. The Badgers are #7 nationally in points allowed. Wisconsin is shooting 47.6% from the field including 34.8% from 3 point range. The Badgers are #25 nationally in field goal percentage. Wisconsin makes 75% of their free throws and is #20 nationally in the category. Opponents are shooting 41.6% from the field and 34.9% from 3 point range. Wisconsin averages 34 rebounds per game and opponents average 25.3 per game. The Badgers are #3 nationally in rebounds allowed. Wisconsin averages 12.3 assists, 7.5 turnovers, 4.5 steals and 3.6 blocks per game. Opponents average 8.1 assists, 10.3 turnovers, 3.9 steals and 1.8 blocks per game.

Wisconsin forward Frank Kaminsky averages 17.7 points, 8.3 rebounds, 2.4 assists, and 1.6 blocks per game. He is probable for personal reasons. Sam Dekker averages 13.1 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 1.1 assists per game. Nigel Hayes averages 12.1 points, 6.4 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game. Guard Traevon Jackson averages 9.4 points, 1.7 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 1.1 steals per game. Jackson is probable with a foot injury after missing the last 19 games. Josh Gasser averages 7 points, 3.5 rebounds and 1.5 assists. Duje Dukan, Bronson Koenig, and Vitto Brown will also get minutes in the rotation.

North Carolina is 5-1 ATS in non-conference games, 4-1 in Thursday games, 7-2 in neutral site games, 5-11-1 against teams with winning records, and 1-4 in NCAA Tournament games.

Wisconsin is 13-3 ATS against ACC teams, 3-1-1 in Thursday games, 19-7-1 in non-conference games, 12-5-1 in neutral site games, and 7-3-1 in NCAA Tournament games.

The probable loss of Meeks will hurt North Carolina. The Tar Heels would like the tempo to be in the 70’s but Wisconsin would be perfectly fine playing in the 60’s. I think the Badgers win comfortably.

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