Daily Sweat: North Carolina, teetering on NCAA tournament bubble, in must-win situation at Notre Dame

Things are teetering for North Carolina.

On the heels of a national runner-up finish in 2022, the Tar Heels opened the season ranked No. 1 in the Associated Press Top 25. Now, as we inch closer to March, North Carolina is fighting just to reach the NCAA tournament.

The Tar Heels enter Wednesday night’s game at Notre Dame having lost five of their last six games. UNC is 16-11 overall with just an 8-8 record in ACC play. More importantly, UNC is an unfathomable 0-9 vs. Quad 1 opponents.

UNC is on the bubble, and a win in South Bend on Wednesday night won’t change that. Notre Dame is 10-17 overall and just 2-14 in ACC play. Only Louisville has been worse.

A win over Notre Dame wouldn’t significantly improve UNC’s NCAA tournament case. But a loss would be very damaging to UNC’s already shaky résumé. Notre Dame is all the way down at No. 194 in the NET rankings.

Simply put, it’s a can’t-lose game for the Tar Heels.

Despite it being such a miserable season for Notre Dame, North Carolina isn’t an overwhelming favorite. The Heels are favored by 6.5 points at BetMGM.

Notre Dame has been one of the worst teams against the spread in college basketball. Only two teams (Georgia State and Tulsa) have covered the spread at a lower rate than the Irish, who boast a miserable 7-19-1 ATS mark. That’s 26.9% and includes a 4-13 ATS record as a home team.

On the other hand, UNC has been almost as bad. The Tar Heels are 8-17-2 ATS, including 1-7-1 ATS as a road team.

Maybe it’s best just to stay away from this one from a betting perspective.

CHAPEL HILL, NORTH CAROLINA - FEBRUARY 11: Head coach Hubert Davis talks with Caleb Love #2 of the North Carolina Tar Heels during their game against the Clemson Tigers at the Dean E. Smith Center on February 11, 2023 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
North Carolina is in danger of missing the NCAA tournament after beginning the season ranked No. 1 in the country. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

Big game in the Big East

Thanks to a big road win over No. 19 Creighton on Tuesday night, No. 10 Marquette has put itself in an excellent position to win the Big East for the first time.

The Golden Eagles’ 73-71 win in Omaha, coupled with No. 16 Xavier’s home loss to Villanova, put Marquette 1.5 games up in the conference standings. No. 20 Providence has the chance to stay within striking distance on Wednesday night, but it won’t be easy.

The Friars occupy second place headed into a road game vs. No. 18 UConn on Wednesday, but they are 7.5-point underdogs at BetMGM. Providence is 15-0 at home, but it’s been a different story as an away team with just a 4-5 straight-up record. Still, the Friars have been reliable for bettors, posting a 12-4 ATS mark vs. Big East competition and a 6-3 ATS mark on the road.

What other bubble teams are in action?

Wisconsin has missed the NCAA tournament just once since Greg Gard took over the program back in 2015. The Badgers are in danger of it happening again.

Wisconsin is 15-11 overall and just 7-9 in Big Ten play, but has a slew of strong victories on its résumé to keep it firmly on the bubble. There isn’t much margin for error for UW coming off a heartbreaking one-point home loss to Rutgers on Saturday. On Wednesday night, the Badgers will host Iowa and are 1.5-point underdogs at Kohl Center.

Iowa got blasted on the road by Northwestern on Sunday but had previously won five of six. Wisconsin won in Iowa City back in December. The Hawkeyes are looking to return the favor.

Wisconsin's Chucky Hepburn (23) against Rutgers during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Feb. 18, 2023, in Madison, Wis. (AP Photo/Andy Manis)
Wisconsin's Chucky Hepburn (23) against Rutgers during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Feb. 18, 2023, in Madison, Wis. (AP Photo/Andy Manis)

Another big game is in the Mountain West as Boise State hosts New Mexico. Boise State is favored by 6.5 points at BetMGM.

Most bracket prognosticators currently have Boise in the field with New Mexico on the outside looking in. The Mountain West got four teams into the field last year, but has typically been a two-bid league. San Diego State is a lock to make the field, but Boise State and New Mexico, as well as teams like Nevada and Utah State, are all in the mix as at-larges if they cannot win the conference tournament.

Needless to say, this is an important game. New Mexico in particular could use another win after dropping five of its last seven.

Anything in the NHL?

There’s another day before the NBA returns from the All-Star break, but there are three NHL games on tap for Wednesday night.

The headliner of that trio is the Winnipeg Jets as slight road favorites (-105) over the New York Islanders (-115). Elsewhere, the Calgary Flames are -210 favorites on the road over the Arizona Coyotes and the Dallas Stars are huge home favorites (-400) over the Chicago Blackhawks.