College Basketball Betting: North Carolina Is A Mess But Oddsmakers and Bettors Know It
College basketball bettors are witnessing a rare occurrence of an elite-level program playing at a very non-elite level. North Carolina has made the NCAA Tournament in all but one of Roy Williams’ 16 seasons in Chapel Hill. A “down” season for the Tar Heels is winning 25 games and getting bounced in the second round of the Big Dance. The “worst” season under Williams came in 2010 when his squad went 20-11 and 5-11 in ACC play. Outside of that, few programs have been as consistently good over the last decade plus.
According to KenPom, North Carolina is on pace to win 16 games — a perhaps generous projection seemingly based more on pedigree rather than potential. UNC is also a dismal 4-10 against the spread; a fortunate mark as two of those four covers came by a single point. Some will cite the absence of point guard Cole Anthony (who is set to return soon) as the main reason for UNC’s struggles. But Anthony’s 93.0 offensive rating and 36.8% shooting suggest the team’s problems run far deeper.
The question is when, if at all, can we start to bet on North Carolina? Laying -6 at home vs. Yale didn’t work (UNC won by three). Either did -7 at home vs. Georgia Tech who somehow won 96-83. What about -5.5 at home vs. Pitt? The markets sure don’t think so with the Tar Heels down to -4.5. You also have to question the psyche of the team after their legendary head coach basically threw the entire team under the bus after the aforementioned loss to the Yellow Jackets.
“We stunk, OK. We were not very good,” Williams said. “The crazy thing about it is, our team, and we’ve had some very gifted teams, this is not a very gifted team. It’s just not.”
Williams has a right to be frustrated but that’s a questionable approach that I have a hard time believing is going to get a bunch of 20-year-olds to play up to their ability.
I tried to find examples of elite programs taking this big of a nosedive. In 2011, Michigan State finished 19-15 and 45th in KenPom’s rating. The Spartans also went 12-21 ATS. Kentucky won the National Championship is 2012 but “bottomed out” the following year with 21 wins and an NIT berth. They too were money burners at 14-17 ATS. The difference though was those seasons featured slow, subtle declines. Midseason, they were both ranked inside KenPom’s top 25. North Carolina went from 6th to is current rating of 59th and we’re only three games into ACC play.
I never like to say a team is unbackable. Hell, if the Miami Dolphins can finish 9-7 ATS after looking the way they did the first two games of the season then North Carolina can deliver a few pointspread covers, no? I’d be more confident if Williams hadn’t taken the sky-is-falling approach but if anything, oddsmakers are very close to pricing North Carolina as a 16-win team rather than the 28+ win team they were projected to be the first month of the season.