What Wake Forest Basketball’s NCAA Tournament Fate Means For NC Sports Betting

Wake Forest basketball‘s chances of an NCAA Tournament run aren’t looking too great.

Wake Forest entered the ACC Tournament with a 19-12 record and won its first game of the bracket against Notre Dame. But on Thursday, it fell to Pittsburgh.

The Deacons were considered by some to be a tournament bubble team heading into postseason play. Here’s a closer look at where Wake Forest stands and what it means for North Carolina sports betting.

What are Wake Forest basketball’s March Madness chances?

As of Friday, bracketology expert Joe Lunardi lists Wake Forest in the “next four out” group, along with Kansas State, Ohio State and Villanova. Heading into ACC Tournament play, the Deacons were a little higher up in Lunardi’s view. But the loss to Pittsburgh didn’t help one bit.

At this point, no updated projections have Wake Forest in the NCAA Tournament. Bracket Matrix had four projections listed that did include the Deacons, but after their loss in the ACC Tournament, that’s changed.

Previously, Fox and On the Bubble‘s projections had the Deacons at an 11-seed. DRatings and Ravi Betzig had Wake Forest as a 12-seed.

Odds to make the NCAA Tournament

Before the ACC Tournament, the betting odds weren’t bad at all for Wake Forest to make the NCAA Tournament. DraftKings Sportsbook NC, for instance, listed the team with -270 odds to make it.

However, four losses in six games (including two losses to sub-.500 programs) seemed to quiet that buzz.

The NIT seems like the most likely fate for Wake Forest. At this point, DRatings projects the Deacons as one of the 3 seeds in the NIT.

Up-and-down season for the Deacons

On paper, Wake Forest didn’t have a bad team by any means.

Guard Hunter Sallis transferred from Gonzaga, and in his first season in a Deacons uniform, he averaged 18.3 points, 4.2 rebounds and 2.6 assists while hitting 41.6% of his shots from 3-point range. He’s also one of the top eight NIL earners in the ACC.

Kevin Miller (15.4 ppg), Cameron Hildreth (13.5 ppg) and Andrew Carr (13.3 ppg, 6.4 rpg) each had solid seasons, too.

On Feb. 24, Wake Forest toppled then-No. 8 Duke 83-79. Sallis scored a team-high 29 points, drained five of his six 3-point attempts and helped the Deacons hold on for their best win of the season.

But ultimately, that late-season slide smothered any hopes of an NCAA Tournament appearance.

What would Wake Forest’s inclusion in the NCAA Tournament mean for NC sports betting?

It would certainly help. But don’t expect there to be a significant drop in sports betting handle if Wake Forest misses the tournament.

A study by EKG predicts that North Carolina bettors will wager $221 million during March Madness. It’s the fourth-highest projection of any state and would account for 8% of the total bets placed nationally.

North Carolina and Duke command a lot of the conversation around basketball in the state. North Carolina has produced 13 NCAA champions over the course of its history, with the Tar Heels and Blue Devils making up 11 of them.

Wake Forest’s enrollment doesn’t help its popularity. For the 2022-23 school year, the college enrolled 8,963 students. That includes the undergrad, graduate and professional schools’ populations.

In comparison, NC State enrolls close to 36,700 students. A little fewer than 32,000 students attend school at North Carolina. UNC Charlotte and East Carolina University each boast student populations totaling more than 27,000.

Wake Forest is a private school, affecting its popularity due to the numbers factor. There just aren’t as many people attending that school as others within the state. Duke is also a private school. However, its basketball popularity is through the roof thanks to its 42 years under former head coach Mike Krzyzewski.

Popularity on social media

Social media is not a perfect gauge of how popular a team is. But taking a look at the followers of each program on X or likes on their Facebook pages is a solid indicator.

North Carolina basketball

  • Followers on X: 1 million
  • Facebook page likes: 367,000

Duke basketball

  • Followers on X: 2.1 million
  • Facebook page likes: 743,000

NC State basketball

  • Followers on X: 115,300
  • Facebook page likes: 54,000

Wake Forest basketball

  • Followers on X: 34,400
  • Facebook page likes: 15,000

It’s always going to be a plus for North Carolina sports bettors when they’ve got another in-state team to bet on during the Big Dance. But Wake Forest’s disappearance won’t drastically affect North Carolina’s March Madness betting numbers.


Image Credit: Nick Wass /AP Images

About the Author

Adam Hensley

Adam Hensley's byline has appeared in the Associated Press, Sports Illustrated and sites within the USA Today Network. Hensley graduated from the University of Iowa in 2019 and spent his college career working as an editor and reporter for the Daily Iowan’s sports department.