I’m here with a special Wednesday NCAA basketball game preview because the greatest rivalry in college basketball, and perhaps in all of sports, is renewed – with as much hype as you would expect from Blue Devils homer network ESPN – when No. 9 Duke visits No. 5 North Carolina in a key ACC game.
There’s no denying how heated this rivalry is, but in a way these aren’t even the best two ACC teams playing on Wednesday. That honor might belong to Florida State, which has won seven straight and is tied for first in the conference with the Tar Heels heading into FSU’s game at Boston College. Oh, and the Noles already beat UNC and Duke each this season.
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But I digress. I would say that this game is much more important for Duke because it already has two league home losses and still has to go to Florida State and then host UNC to close the regular season (Duke should win all its other games). A chance at the ACC regular-season title likely goes out the window tonight if Duke loses. UNC just looks to keep pace with FSU as the Heels and Noles don’t play again during the regular season.
I remained 7-3 on the side this year as last weekend’s Kansas-Missouri game was a push. I did hit on the ‘under’ again, however.
Duke at North Carolina Betting Storylines
The Blue Devils (19-4, 6-2) might have been caught looking ahead to this game as they were stunned at Cameron Indoor Stadium by unranked Miami on Super Bowl Sunday, 78-74, in overtime. And it was no fluke, as the Canes dominated inside and had a 16-point second-half lead at one point. Duke was outrebounded in the game 48-43 and that’s a danger sign against UNC, which leads the league with a plus-11.2 rebounding margin, the best in the ACC since South Carolina in 1970.
When Duke lost to FSU in Durham, the Noles were unranked. Duke has now lost six home games to unranked opponents since the start of the 1996-97 season, but the Blue Devils have now dropped two of their last three. The last time Duke lost to two unranked opponents at home in the same year, they were knocked out of the 2007 NCAA Tournament in the first round.
North Carolina (20-3, 7-1) has won five straight since its 33-point loss at FSU. The Heels didn’t look particularly sharp on Saturday, winning 83-74 at Maryland. The big story out of that one was all-American candidate Harrison Barnes re-injuring a sprained ankle. He played through it vs. the Terps but was just 5-for-15 from the field for 18 points. He did have two key buckets: Barnes’ three-pointer from the left side gave UNC the lead for good with about nine minutes to play and he made a jumper with about a minute to play that stretched the Heels’ lead to six. Barnes said there’s no doubt he will be ready for Duke.
Bench play could be key here – and that might favor Duke. UNC’s bench was outscored 24-6 at Maryland. In the four games since UNC staring guard Dexter Strickland tore his ACL and Reggie Bullock moved into the starting lineup, UNC’s reserves have been outscored 80-42. By comparison, Duke guard Seth Curry had 22 points himself off the bench against Miami – that’s a huge good sign for the Blue Devils as Curry had been off of late.
Duke and Carolina split two regular-season meetings a year ago, each winning at home. The Blue Devils then thumped the Heels 75-58 in the ACC Tournament Championship Game. Duke last won in Chapel Hill on Feb. 10, 2010, 64-54. Of course, those Blue Devils won the NCAA Championship while Carolina was an NIT team.
The Heels are 1-1 vs. ranked teams this year (win vs. Wisconsin, loss at Kentucky), while Duke is 3-1 (wins vs. Michigan, Kansas and Virginia, loss at Ohio State). Both teams also played now-ranked Michigan State at the beginning of the season with Duke winning 74-69 in New York and UNC opening the season with a 67-55 win over the Spartans on an aircraft carrier in San Diego Harbor.
Duke at North Carolina Betting Odds and Trends
UNC opened as a six-point favorite with the total at 157 on NCAA basketball odds. Duke is 9-14 ATS overall this season and 3-3 ATS on road. UNC is 11-11 ATS overall and 6-6 at home. Over/under records: UNC 11-11, Duke 15-8.
The Blue Devils are 8-3 ATS in past 11 after a loss. The Heels are 1-4 ATS in past five after a win. The under is 6-0 in both UNC’s and Duke’s past six vs. teams with a winning record. The under is 6-0 in the past six in this series. The favorite has covered in four of the past five.
College Basketball Picks: Duke at North Carolina Betting Predictions
UNC is 14-0 at home this season and only two of those games have been decided by single digits. Duke has been very shaky on the road at times, getting outclassed at Ohio State and losing at Temple. As long as Barnes is playing, take the Heels and give the points. These are two of the best offensive teams in the nation, but it’s hard to argue against those under trends listed above. So that’s the lean there.
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