The Ohio Bobcats (29-7) will be taking on the North Carolina Tar Heels (31-5) in the Sweet 16 of the Midwest Region Friday night inside the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis, MO.

Ohio Bobcats vs. North Carolina Tar Heels 

The North Carolina Tar Heels will likely be without the services of PG Kendall Marshall on Friday night

Ohio has reached this stage by picking up victories over the Michigan Wolverines and South Florida Bulls, which has given the school its first trip to the Sweet 16 since the NCAA tournament expanded to its current format.  “Nobody in our locker room feels like we’re a Cinderella team,” commented Bobcats junior guard D.J. Cooper.  The Bobcats are 3-2 in this event since 2004, while all other Mid-American Conference teams are a combined 0-6 during that span.  Ohio is 6-2 ATS as an underdog and 9-1 ATS in non-conference games this year.

The Bobcats will definitely try to force the Tar Heels into mistakes on the offensive end, ranking fourth nationally in averaging 9.3 steals per game.  Ohio also defends the perimeter in a major way, allowing opponents to shoot just 29.3 percent from beyond the arc, which is 11th in the country in that department.  There’s no doubt that the team will need to muscle up in the interior in facing a North Carolina team that has three starters 6-8 or taller.

North Carolina covered its first two games with ease in defeating the Vermont Catamounts and Creighton Blue Jays, but an injury to starting point guard Kendall Marshall may derail the season.  He is listed as questionable on the injury report with a wrist injury that was suffered on Sunday.  The Tar Heels may still have enough talent to get past this round due to winning 10 consecutive Sweet 16 games, including a 5-0 mark under current head coach Roy Williams.  North Carolina is 10-13 ATS on a neutral court the last two-plus seasons.

The Tar Heels are a No. 1 seed in the tournament for the 14th time and have tallied an impressive 49-9 mark in that situation.  North Carolina has split its two previous meetings with Ohio, picking up a road victory in 1985, but dropping a 2002 contest inside the Smith Center.  It’s important to note that the program is 4-0 all-time in this event when playing in the state of Missouri.

Bettors will likely back the Bobcats due to their 20-6-1 ATS mark as an underdog, while the Tar Heels are 1-4 ATS versus MAC opponents.

Recommendation: Ohio Bobcats +10.5

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