DraftKings Director Provides North Carolina Basketball, March Madness Updates

“It’s Bonus Time, Baby!” North Carolina bettors can embrace a phrase first championed by the late actor Telly Savalas in the infancy of Atlantic City’s legalized gambling. He referred to a Player’s Club offering in the late 1970’s.

That term can mean three Tar Heel State teams – North Carolina State, North Carolina, and Duke – vying in the Sweet 16 round of March Madness.

“It’s not surprising that Duke is still in it, nor, surprisingly, North Carolina is there, but the team that has taken a lot of the tournament by storm is North Carolina State,” Johnny Avello, the director of race and sportsbook operations for DraftKings, told Gaming Today.

“They weren’t even going to make the Big Dance unless they won their conference tournament, and here they are in the Sweet 16. Bettors are taking them, too.

“This is a funny tournament,” he added. “You will often see a team make a big run to get through the conference tournament and then get bounced. But I don’t know if there is any good pattern to follow this year. You often look at who is playing well at the end of the regular season, but I don’t know if that applies this year.”

NC State does put that theory to the test. In one week, it beat nationally-ranked Duke and North Carolina to win the ACC tournament. The Wolfpack rallied from six points down to force the overtime they dominated against Virginia.

They throttled Texas Tech and survived an overtime conflict against underdog Oakland. North Carolina just missed covering -6.5, but overtime rescued the Over bettors.

Seven straight tournament wins after a 17-15 regular season.

Related Pages: March Madness Betting Promos | Best Parlay Apps | College Basketball Odds

A North Carolina Overview of Sweet 16 Round

  • NC State is a significant underdog, +6.5 against Marquette.
  • North Carolina is -4 against Alabama.
  • Duke is +4 against Houston.

Can one or more of these teams win a pair of games and reach the Final Four? The odds above are accurate as of publish, but check here to view live March Madness odds.

Projected March Madness Betting Patterns

Avello said North Carolina-Alabama will probably generate the best handle of the four Thursday games because of their up-tempo styles and North Carolina’s continual popularity.

He believes Friday is a more attractive betting slate, with NC State being the biggest underdog at +6.5. Duke-Houston figures to deliver the highest handle on a slate of heavily-wagered games.

“Some of the spreads are higher than you usually see at this stage,” Avello noted of Connecticut being -11 against San Diego State and Arizona at -7.5 against Clemson.”

Avello expects heavy support for the chalk and hopes the book can get at least one Wonder Dog to cover.

“If Arizona, Connecticut, North Carolina, and Iowa State all cover, that’s not a good start for us,” he said. “We are going to need a surprise somewhere. It will be there, but I’m unsure where it will be.”

The book had several winning days in the opening round, but players had a massive day on Saturday.

“The players are pretty smart, and they have their share of good days,” Avello noted. “We took it on the chin Saturday. Books don’t win all the time.”

Betting Highlights from March Madness on North Carolina Teams

Gamblers latched on to a good deal with the Duke Blue Devils right after they were bounced in the ACC tournament final by NC State.

Duke was -115 at DraftKings to reach the Sweet 16 and made that resemble easy money in throttling Vermont 64-47 and James Madison 93-55.

NC State bettors eye a potential hedging opportunity against Marquette. The Wolfpack were +1500 to reach the Elite Eight before the tournament started.

An upset win over Marquette would cash that ticket. Gamblers looking to cover the other side might look at an in-game opportunity if the score is close enough early to make Marquette a manageable moneyline play. Right now, at -285,  it is not.

Get more coverage on North Carolina sports betting

Sweet 16 Updated Futures Odds

Numbers are still great for North Carolina bettors who fancy futures on their in-state teams.

NC State still has few believers and big numbers. The Wolfpack are to win it all and to reach the Final Four. This despite wins over Duke and North Carolina to capture the ACC tournament.


  • to reach the Final Four
  • to win the National Championship

North Carolina:

  • to reach the Final Four
  • to win the National Championship

Women’s Play Ignites Public, Bettors

Avello told the Gaming Today audience last week that Women’s March Madness betting increased 12-fold over the previous year. He adds that solid action continued through the first two rounds, with the public embracing storylines.

South Carolina remains the nation’s top team. After throttling North Carolina 88-41, it faces Indiana Friday night at -16.5

Caitlin Clark remains the biggest individual story and had 32 points as Iowa labored past West Virginia 64-54. Iowa plays  Colorado on Saturday at -8.5.

Clark has a DraftKings prop of 32.5 points (Over -115, Under -105) for this matchup.

And don’t forget JuJu. USC bettors love JuJu Watkins, who notched 28 points and 11 rebounds as USC cruised past. USC now has a tough third-round matchup with Baylor at -4.5.

Avello is personally torn by the scheduling. The MVP Arena in Albany, NY, is host to the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight Rounds. It’s only 80 miles from his native Poughkeepsie.

“I do have to go back to the area from time to time,” Avello noted, “and I wish one of them were this weekend. I would be eager to take in the games. The women play exciting basketball.”

He is not alone. Shaq goes as far as to say he only watches women’s March Madness hoops.

Bettors, of course, watch everything. That’s how they learn while they earn.


About the Author
Dave Bontempo

Dave Bontempo

Dave Bontempo is an award-winning writer and broadcaster, who has covered the sports industry since the 1970s. He won the Sam Taub Award for Excellence in Boxing Broadcasting by the Boxing Writers Association of America in 1997, and is in the New Jersey and Atlantic City Boxing Halls of Fame. Bontempo has broadcast major fights all over the world. The advent of legalized sports wagering shifted his focus to this exciting new industry in 2018.

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