After last season's NCAA tournament run to the championship game, and after an offseason of hype that included a No. 1 preseason ranking, nobody figured on North Carolina playing on Wednesday in the ACC tournament as a No. 7 seed.
Terming North Carolina a bubble team for the NCAA tournament probably isn't fair or accurate. The Tar Heels aren't even on the bubble at the moment. They probably slipped off a while ago.
North Carolina will try to make a long run in the ACC tournament starting Wednesday, and perhaps avoid becoming the first No. 1 preseason team to miss the tournament since it expanded in 1985. The 19-12 Tar Heels are an 11.5-point favorite at BetMGM over Boston College on Wednesday. BC isn't good, but it's hard to trust UNC to cover such a big number. If North Carolina wins, they'd need to beat Virginia on Thursday to get in the NCAA tournament conversation.
At least six other teams that should be termed bubble teams for the NCAA tournament are in action on Wednesday and can't afford a loss:
Wisconsin (+1.5) vs. Ohio State: Wisconsin hasn't been good in a while but early season wins keep them in the tournament conversation. Ohio State has been reeling and it's surprising to see the Buckeyes favored.
Oklahoma State (-1.5) vs. Oklahoma: A five-game losing streak by Oklahoma State put them in tournament danger. But Oklahoma is just 15-16 and lost by 16 and 10 in two regular-season meetings with their biggest rival. I'll roll with Oklahoma State with a small spread.
North Carolina State (-2.5) vs. Virginia Tech: I'll take NC State to win this and stay alive for a tournament berth, but this is a pretty entertaining game for the Wednesday of the ACC tournament.
Arizona State (-9.5) vs. Oregon State: The Sun Devils need wins and while one against the Beavers won't move the needle much, it would give ASU a chance to get the multiple wins it needs before Selection Sunday.
Here's a first look at the sports betting slate for Wednesday:
Conference tournaments everywhere
Wednesday isn't the greatest day of conference tournament week, with most of the bad, high-seeded teams in the big conferences taking the court. But it's a lot of basketball and it sets up a great rest of the week.
There are three auto bids to be handed out on Wednesday. The Patriot League hands out its championship as Lafayette faces Colgate. Colgate is a double-digit favorite and the type of team that can absolutely win a first-round NCAA tournament game. The Southland features Texas A&M-Corpus Christi vs. Northwestern State. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi is a 2.5-point favorite and I like that side. In the Big Sky, Montana State is a 6.5-point favorite against Northern Arizona, which has made a run to the title game as a No. 9 seed.
NBA has 7 games
Pro basketball gets overshadowed a bit in March, but the NBA has been on fire lately. There are seven games in the NBA on Wednesday night, and the best matchup is the second game of ESPN's doubleheader, as the Toronto Raptors take on the Los Angeles Clippers. The Clippers are 2.5-point favorites at home and have been slumping a bit, making it hard to trust them even as a small favorite.
What's the best bet?
The first game on Wednesday tips off at 11:30 a.m. ET and there's basketball past midnight with the Big Sky championship game and Pac-12 first round. You have to love March. Narrowing it down to one best bet isn't easy, but let's go with Oklahoma State, which needs a win and is simply better than Oklahoma.