College World Series Game 1 Odds: Can Red-Hot Virginia Upset UNC?

Written By Brett Gibbons | Last Updated
CWS odds North Carolina Virginia

The 2024 College World Series begins Friday when the No. 4 North Carolina Tar Heels take on the 12th-ranked Virginia Cavaliers. UNC opened a modest -160 favorite on moneyline odds, while Virginia opened at +128. A two-run walk-off home run by Vance Honeycutt and a subsequent 2-1 win over West Virginia sent the Tar Heels to Omaha last weekend. Conversely, two comfortable wins over Kansas State punched the Hoos’ ticket.

Virginia vs. UNC begins Friday at 2:00 p.m. ET from Charles Schwab Field in Omaha, Nebraska. Watch the game on ESPN or ESPN+.

College baseball: UNC Vs. Virginia Odds

Compare UNC vs. Virginia game odds from the best sports betting sites below. Click on odds to place a bet.

The Case For North Carolina

Earned, not given, is the route UNC took to get to Omaha this year. They outlasted LSU in extra innings of a winner-takes-all Game 7 at the Chapel Hill Regional. Although they swept West Virginia in a home Super Regional, the Tar Heels did so by three combined runs. It’s been a team effort – the pitching rotation has been phenomenal at times, especially closer Dalton Pence – but star power really came up big when UNC needed it most.

In the last five games, outfielder Vance Honeycutt has four home runs, seven hits, and eight RBI, including a walk-off homer in Game 1 of the Super Regionals. He’s knocked 26 home runs this season and adds a real threat on the base path with 28 steals. Defensively, he’s an all-star, earning ACC Defensive Player of the Year honors in 2023.

Carolina has five starters with an ERA under 4.00 and an extremely effective middle reliever in Matthew Matthijs (12-4, 3.65). Utilizing an opening pitcher could prove to be beneficial in the arduous days of the College World Series. In Omaha, quality pitching trumps all.

The Tar Heels are one of the most complete teams in the field. They have the star hitting (Honeycutt, 20-home run power hitter Parks Harber), deep and quality pitching, and one of the best closers in the nation.

The Case Against

Of the last 24 College World Series winners, 18 of them went 3-0 in Regional play. It took North Carolina four games to stave off a feisty LSU team. While less correlated – and LSU was playing extremely well – Carolina is one of just two Omaha teams not to sweep the region (Florida).

Home-field advantage has been UNC’s biggest weapon. The Tar Heels finished an astounding 37-3 in Chapel Hill and just 10-11 away from it. Their 1-3 record at neutral sites this year is the worst in the CWS field.

The Case for Virginia

Few teams field as stacked a hitting lineup as Virginia. The Hoos finished second in the country in team batting (.336), and that came against quality ACC play. (For proof, the ACC is one of just two leagues standing.) Infielder Henry Godbout might just be the toughest out in the tournament. In 208 plate appearances, the sophomore struck out just 19 times and drew 27 walks (.370 average). Harrison Didawick leads the power-hitting with 23 home runs. There’s no weak link in the lineup; even their most inefficient hitters bat around .300.

What makes Virginia a dangerous team in the CWS is the recent pitching. In each of the Hoos’ NCAA Tournament games (5-0), they held opponents to four runs or fewer. Top starters Evan Blanco (8-3, 3.69) turned in 13 quality innings, and Jay Woolfolk (4-1, 5.95) went 14 in two starts each. Virginia has yet to use more than three arms in a single tournament game.

This year, Virginia’s been comfortable playing away from home. They boast a 4-1 record at neutral sites and a 15-8 record away from Charlottesville.

When your bats are as dangerous as UVA’s and your rotation playing as well as theirs is right now, you’re a tough team to beat. Virginia still has longshot odds to win the College World Series, but recent form suggests they may be priced a bit too generously.

The Case Against

In each of its last two CWS appearances, Virginia won one game. Last year, the Cavaliers were the first team out, losing their first two. Recent form is great, but this team needs to learn to win on the biggest stage.

A 10-8 record against top-50 competition this season isn’t the worst mark among the remaining teams, but it pales in comparison to some of the favorites. Tennessee posts a 21-9 record and Kentucky, 22-9 (a product of playing in the SEC, surely). However, it is an improvement on North Carolina’s 10-10.

Expected Pitching Matchup

The strategy for pitching in the College World Series is extremely difficult. Do you keep your ace arms for elimination games? Maintain your usual rotation? Or exercise the big guns early to avoid getting in elimination games at all?

We likely won’t know starters until 24 hours before (or even fewer), but here’s who may go if both teams rely on their usual rotation.

North Carolina: Jason Decaro (6-1, 3.69 ERA)

Virginia: Evan Blanco (8-3, 3.69 ERA)

  • Virginia’s Friday night starter and the first to see the mound in the Super Regionals and ACC Tournament. In his last appearance, he threw 102 pitches over seven innings, fanning nine but allowing four earned runs.

Final Thoughts on UNC Vs. Virginia Odds

It’s tough to argue against Virginia’s recent form. While nothing’s been given, the Hoos have made it look easy. I give the nod to Blanco as the better starter in the matchup, but I expect Matthijs to step in and get plenty of work. Once Pence gets on the mound when North Carolina has a lead, the game’s pretty much over.

Two things carry a team far in the College World Series: Momentum and pitching. Virginia has both.

FanDuel Sportsbook offered a slightly better price on UVA (+128) than the market consensus (+125). For Game 1, I’m backing Virginia (+128).