The North Carolina Tar Heels will be looking to bounce back from a 74-73 loss to arch rival Duke in this year’s ACC Tournament semifinal when they open this year’s NCAA Tournament against the Iona Gaels on Friday as 24.5-point favorites on the March Madness odds at sportsbooks monitored by

The loss to the Blue Devils as 4.5-point underdogs put a damper on an otherwise impressive college basketball season for the Tar Heels. With a 16-2 record, UNC claimed a share of the ACC regular-season title for the third time in four years, and now sits among the favorites on the national championship odds going into their first-round matchup in Columbus, Ohio.

The Tar Heels enter this year’s tournament set as the No. 1 seed in the Midwest Region, and sit fourth on the national championship odds at +800. UNC has enjoyed steady success in recent trips to the Big Dance as a No. 1 seed. The team claimed the national championship two years ago, and has reached the Final Four in five of seven tournament appearances as a top seed.

However, the Tar Heels’ path to a national championship likely will be complicated by a pair of ACC rivals, who enter the NCAA Tournament leading the way on the March Madness betting lines.

With Zion Williamson back in the fold after missing six games to an ankle injury, the Blue Devils have solidified their perch atop the March Madness futures as +225 favorites, followed by the ACC co-champion Virginia Cavaliers at +550.

The Blue Devils spent several weeks atop the AP Top 25 before Williamson went down to injury in an 88-72 loss to UNC as 10-point chalk on February 20. That marked the first of three straight-up losses in six contests that briefly threatened to bounce Duke from the top line. It also further complicated the Blue Devils’ already shaky performance at the sportsbooks, where they have covered in just three of their last 11 contests.

The Cavaliers are coming off a stunning 69-59 loss to Florida State in the ACC Tournament semifinal, ending a nine-game VU win streak, and will be under pressure in Friday’s tournament opener against the Gardner-Webb Bulldogs as 23.5-point chalk on the college basketball betting lines after last year’s history-making first-round loss to UMBC.

Further down the March Madness odds, the Gonzaga Bulldogs sit at +600 following their shocking 60-47 loss to Saint Mary’s as 15-point favorites in this year’s West Coast Conference Tournament final, while the Kentucky Wildcats and Michigan State Spartans sit just off the pace, each with +1200 odds.

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