North Carolina is a team on the rise 

February, 9, 2011

It was a little more than a year ago that I first realized the North Carolina Tar Heels were in a tailspin during the 2009-10 season. The Heels were still winning, but their record against the spread was horrendous, their RPI was weak and their Sweat Barometer number, which Sal from and I work up every week, was in the tank. I thought to myself, this team is a fraud. Turns out, shocker, I was right.

Cut to this week. The Tar Heels couldn't have had a more interesting few days: Larry Drew II petulantly walks off the team and has his father, Atlanta Hawks coach Larry Drew, call Roy Williams to break the news. As a dad, Larry Drew should teach his kid better lessons. As a coach, he should be ashamed of himself for doing what he did to another coach. I won't pontificate, plenty of people have done it over the past couple of days. If you want a really great take on the Drew family saga and how appalling the move was, check out what Seth Davis wrote on the other day. He nailed it.

By all circumstances, this is when the Heels should be tanking ... again. And yet, Coach Roy has them playing some of their best basketball of the season. They are in the AP Top 25 and, even more important, they have cracked the Sweat Barometer Top 25 for the first time in more than a year. Congrats, fellas! And take that, Larry Drew II. You could be a part of a great against-the-spread team.

I mention the Heels not just because of their ascendance but because, as you may have heard, they are playing at the Duke Blue Devils tonight, where they are anywhere from a 9.5- to 10.5-point underdog. This is a great test for UNC to show it's a team worthy of your betting dollars. After struggling early and starting the season 1-4 against the spread (losing three of those games outright to Vandy, Minnesota and Illinois), the Heels have gone on an ATS tear, covering five straight. And we're not talking all squeakers, either. They won at Boston College by 32 as 2.5-point favorites, beat NC State at home by 20 and doubled up the spread in blowing out an always dangerous Florida State team by 20 (no coincidence, with all these big blowouts, UNC has gone over the total in the past five games, too.)

Right now, in fact, the Heels are ranked 23rd in the Sweat Barometer, beating an average closing line of minus-7.05 by 2.37 points per game. As double-digit dogs on the road against their biggest rivals tonight, we'll find out if they're for real.

Records are through Wednesday's games; RPI and SB are through Tuesday.