Syracuse has surprised much of the sports world by making an improbable Final Four run, but North Carolina is right where they were expected to be when the college basketball season started. The Tar Heels are just two wins away from capturing their first national championship in seven years, and they are heavy favorites to advance when they play the Orange on Saturday night at NRG Stadium in Houston.
North Carolina began the 2015-2016 season atop the AP Top 25 Poll, earning 35 of a possible 65 first-place votes. Roy Williams’ squad finished with the best record in the ACC, and they went on to win the conference tournament. They are the only No.1 seed left in the 2016 NCAA Tournament, and they are giving Syracuse 9.5 points at Las Vegas sportsbooks.
The Tar Heels have been largely dominant during March Madness. Their Elite Eight victory over Notre Dame was their closest contest, and they still defeated the Fighting Irish by 14 points. North Carolina won by an average of 16.7 points in their first three NCAA Tournament games after beating three tournament teams in the ACC Tournament.
Despite how well North Carolina has been playing, Syracuse has proven that they can play with the best teams in the country. Not only did they beat No.1 seed Virginia in the Elite Eight, they nearly upset North Carolina on Feb.29. The Orange were down by one possession in the final seconds, but they ended up losing by five points.
If Syracuse wants to defeat North Carolina, they’ll have to make history in order to do it. They are the first No.10 seed to ever reach the Final Four, and no double-digit seed has ever played in the title game. Three No.11 seeds have made it to the Final Four, but they were all soundly defeated in the national semifinals.
The Orange have stayed alive in the tournament by making late-game comebacks against Gonzaga and Virginia. Freshmen Malachi Richardson and Tyler Lydon have been key, and senior point guard Michael Gbinije is the team’s leading scorer.
Start Time: 8:49 p.m. ET
TV Channel: TBS
Online Stream: NCAA March Madness Live