Updated on 09/17/2011 10:03PM

NCAA: Tar Heels primed after scare


LAS VEGAS - The calendar said it was Good Friday, and it sure was one for the Big Ten.

Michigan St. upset Duke 78-68 in the Austin Regional as a 4-point underdog and Wisconsin knocked off North Carolina St. 65-56 in the Syracuse Regional as a 2-point underdog. Along with Illinois, that gave the Big 10 three teams in the Elite Eight with no other conference having more than one. Friday's other games were Kentucky beating Utah 62-52 in Austin as a 4 1/ 2-point favorite and North Carolina holding on to beat Villanova 67-66 in Syracuse as an 11-point choice.

That meant that underdogs went 3-1 against the spread on Friday and grabbed a slim 29-27-1 for the whole tournament entering Saturday's games. The under also went 3-1 - with the Duke-Michigan St. game being the lone exception - to improve to 33-24 (58 percent) overall.

My bankroll plays split as I had Duke -4 1/2 and Villanova +10. Fortunately - or perhaps unfortunately since I didn't bet them - I went 2-0 with my non-bankroll selections with Wisconsin and Kentucky.

Hopefully I can deliver two winners in Sunday's games that will help round out the Final Four. All times are Eastern.

2:40 p.m. at Syracuse, N.Y.

For the most part of North Carolina's win over Villanova, I felt confident with my selection of Villanova +10 as the Wildcats had an early lead and still stayed close after the Tar Heels made their inevitable run to get back in it. However, after feeling great all game long, I felt leery when they pulled ahead 61-50. But in the end, I was on right side and the way the game played out, it justified what I wrote in Friday's print editions: "Every NCAA champion - and North Carolina was my chalk-eating pick in my bracket - seems to have one game in which they have to stare defeat straight in the face and survive." That's an important point because now I'm just as confident that North Carolina has gotta that close game out of its system and will bounce back and thoroughly dominate Wisconsin on Sunday. Point guard Raymond Felton is a main cog in the North Carolina engine, so it was impressive to watch the Tar Heels survive despite him fouling out Friday night. That was his first foul-out of the season, so he should be back to run the show the full game as usual. This line opened at 10 1/2 and was pretty much 10 everywhere by noon Saturday, so I'll obviously lay the cheaper price.

PLAY: North Carolina for 1 unit.

Sunday's other game

: When this matchup was determined, I was expecting this line to be a lot higher, perhaps around 4 or 5. It's tempting to play every game just because they're on TV, but I have to pass if I don't think I'm getting value.

Friday's bankroll plays: 1-1. Overall tournament bankroll record: 12-10-1 for a net profit of 1 unit (based on laying 1.1 units to win 1). Selections on all tournament games through Friday: 30-25-2 (55 percent).