As March approaches, we’ve got two top college basketball picks: Best Bets for Feb. 25

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North Carolina's Donovan Johnson (14) and D'Marco Dunn (11) help Jalen Washington (13) up after a play against Virginia during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Charlottesville, Va., Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023. (AP Photo/Mike Kropf)

Each day, one of our experts will offer up a best bet (or two or three) that mobile sportsbooks are offering. It might be a traditional spread bet, a player prop or one of the various odds boosts that books offer.

Here are our best bets for Saturday, Feb. 25:

TOP PLAY

The play: Men’s college basketball, North Carolina -4.5 over Virginia

The odds: -104

The book: FanDuel Sportsbook

Time/TV: 6 p.m. (ESPN)

Our take: Here’s the headline of the season for those just turning their attention to college basketball as March approaches: Last year’s national runner-up and this year’s preseason No. 1, North Carolina, wouldn’t even be in the NCAA tournament if it started today.

The Tar Heels are just 17-11 and have twice suffered four-game losing streaks that have left them squarely on the NCAA tournament bubble. The Atlantic Coast Conference having one of its worst seasons ever complicates UNC’s strength of schedule situation, too.

That makes this — a visit from ACC-co-leading and national No. 6 Virginia — the most precious of opportunities for the Tar Heels, who desperately need to add big wins to their résumé. The good news for North Carolina is that it’s at home, where the Heels are 11-2, and that the Cavaliers have been pedestrian on the road (just 6-4, including a blowout loss at Boston College this week).

These are actually fairly even teams on paper, if you look at analytics systems like KenPom and Torvik, and so with a home crowd eager to see a late-season surge like last year, when the Tar Heels took a No. 8 seed and turned it into a Final Four team, laying 4.5 points should be no problem.

THAT’S A LOT OF POINTS

The play: Men’s college basketball, South Carolina +22.5 over Tennessee

The odds: -110

The book: FanDuel Sportsbook

Time/TV: 6 p.m. (SEC Network)

Our take: Yes, South Carolina is one of the worst power-conference teams in the country. Yes, they lost by 40-plus AT HOME to Tennessee back in January. But don’t let that color your opinion too much here.

22.5 points is a ton for any game, but that’s especially true in a late-season conference game. Blowouts just don’t happen that much. Besides, recent form tells us the Gamecocks have improved. They’ve lost just one game by double digits this month, and that was by 11. Meanwhile, the Volunteers haven’t won a game by double digits this month either, and they’ve only won one SEC game since that Jan. 7 beatdown at South Carolina by enough points to cover this spread.

Take the points and run.

HOW WE’VE FARED

Friday’s best bets

NBA: Suns -6½ over Thunder (WON)

Friday’s record: 1-0

Total for the week: 5-3, 1 PGA bet pending

Total for February: 21-23, 1 pending

Total for 2023: 46-57, 1 pending

NOTE: If a line or odds are minus, it considers the juice one must lay to place the bet. Ex: Team A is -160 on the money line, one would have to bet $160 to win $100 (or $16 to win $10). OR Team B is a 5-point favorite at -110, one would have to bet $110 to win $100 (or $11 to win $10.)

Conversely, on positive lines, if Team C is +140 on the money line, a $100 would bring in $140 (or $10 to win $14).

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