It’s rather fitting that just after the Super Bowl, college basketball fans get treated to the Super Bowl of college basketball’s regular season (and ESPN/Dick Vitale hype it as such): the North Carolina-Duke rivalry resumes on Wednesday night. A few weeks ago, this looked like a giant mismatch as the Heels were stuck in the mud much like last season, but they are rolling and entered the coaches’ poll at No. 21 this week after falling out in late November. The Blue Devils are No. 5 in that poll and lead UNC by a half-game atop the ACC.
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How the Teams Enter
North Carolina (17-5, 7-1 ACC) enters off an impressive 89-69 home win Sunday over Florida State, the same team that handed Duke one of its two losses (albeit in Tallahassee) and one of the best defensive clubs in the land. The Heels have now won five in a row (5-0 ATS) – their average margin of victory in the past three is 24 points – and 10 of 11.
Duke (21-2, 8-1) had a perplexing 93-78 loss at St. John’s back on Jan. 30, but since then has won by 18 at Maryland and on Saturday by 24 points at home over N.C. State. The win over the Wolfpack was Duke’s 32nd in a row at home, which is the longest active streak in the country (thanks to Texas’ win in Kansas a few weeks ago) and the fourth-longest home win streak in program history. The Blue Devils have won 15 straight at home vs. ACC teams and have dropped just two games at Cameron Indoor Stadium in conference play the past four seasons.
North Carolina at Duke Betting Storylines
The Heels’ depth did take a hit last week when former starting point guard Larry Drew II left the team in a huff and decided to transfer. Drew was upset that he lost his starting job recently to freshman Kendall Marshall and that Drew’s minutes were declining. But it appears to have been the right move by Roy Williams as Marshall was stellar against the Noles. He had a UNC freshman record 16 assists (fourth-most by any Heel all time), nine points and three steals in a career-high 36 minutes. He entered the game averaging 16.9 minutes.
But really the catalyst has been freshman forward Harrison Barnes, who was only a preseason All-American despite never having played a college game. His turnaround started against Clemson when he hit a key three-pointer that started this current five-game winning streak. Then the next game he hit a game-winning three-pointer in Miami. The next game against N.C. State, he scored career-high 25 points. Then against Boston College he had 26 points. Against FSU, Barnes had 17 points and 10 rebounds for his second collegiate double-double. He could be the No. 1 overall pick in the next NBA draft after all.
With Kyrie Irving out, the Dukies are sort of the opposite of UNC in that they rely mostly on two seniors: Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith. Smith leads the ACC, averaging 21.0 points and 5.6 assists per game. He is one of four players in the NCAA averaging more than 20.0 points and 5.0 assists per game. Singler is second in the team in points (18.0) and rebounds (6.2). He has had success against the Heels in his career, averaging 18.8 points in six matchups and scoring at least 20 three times.
Duke swept UNC last year, including an 82-50 win at Cameron Indoor Stadium that was the largest rout for Duke at home in the series’ history. But Coach K is just 15-13 all-time at Cameron in this series and has a losing overall record against UNC (34-35). This will be 130th straight meeting with at least one team ranked in the AP poll.
North Carolina at Duke Betting Odds and Trends
Duke has opened as a 10-point favorite with the total at 154, according to college basketball odds. UNC is 4-2 on the road and 3-3 ATS. Duke is 13-0 at home and 6-6 ATS.
The Blue Devils are just 2-5 in their past seven at home.
The ‘over’ is 5-0 in UNC’s past five games.
The ‘under’ is 4-1 ATS in the past five meetings.
The road team is 5-1 ATS in the past six meetings.
College Basketball Picks: North Carolina at Duke Predictions
I am stunned this line is at 10 points. The Heels are streaking and have covered in four of their past five in Durham, that last visit obviously being the one they didn’t. I don’t think the young Heels are ready to win in Cameron yet, but it will be close. Take UNC and the points and the ‘under’.
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