It’s Carolina-Duke. What more is there to say as college basketball’s regular season comes to a close this weekend?
Actually, there’s plenty to say about the sport’s best rivalry. It’s the 233rd time overall the two have met and 44th that the Tobacco Road bluebloods will play as Top-10 foes – and second time this season. And all that’s on the line Saturday night in Durham is the outright ACC regular-season championship, the No. 1 seed that goes with it in next week’s conference tournament and almost assuredly a top seed in the NCAA Tournament barring an early flameout in the conference tourney by Saturday’s winner.
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This is the seventh time the two will meet in a winner-take-all game for the ACC regular season title. Of the six previous season-ending meetings, three have been reprised in the following week's ACC Tournament Championship Game.
Oddly, the winner of the past six winner-take-all games has claimed the ACC Tournament title just twice (1967 and 2008). Last season was the last time the two faced off in this scenario – with UNC winning the regular-season finale and title but then Duke taking the tournament crown. The team that has won the winner-take-all regular season finale has advanced to the Final Four three times; the loser has advanced to the Final Four twice.
It’s the 12th time overall since Mike Krzyzewski arrived at Duke that they will meet with some type of ACC Championship on the line — either the regular-season title or in the tournament final. The Blue Devils are 6-5 in those situations. This will also be the sixth straight regular-season finale in which at least one of Carolina or Duke is playing for a share of the ACC title. ACC programs not nicknamed Tar Heels or Blue Devils have played exactly zero winner-take-all regular-season finale showdowns.
So, yeah, this one is worth watching. It’s also the final regular-season game for guys like UNC’s Tyler Zeller and Duke’s Miles Plumlee. And it well could be the final one for stud non-seniors possibly headed to the NBA Draft like Harrison Barnes (he’s gone), John Henson, Kendall Marshall and Austin Rivers.
Duke at North Carolina Betting Storylines
Arguably the game of the season was when these two last played, Feb. 8 in Chapel Hill -- the most recent Missouri-Kansas game might have an argument for game of the year -- an 85-84 Duke win. Certainly it was the shot of the year when Blue Devils freshman Rivers launched a three-pointer over the outstretched arms of UNC’s seven-foot Zeller to win it at the buzzer. Rivers was the star of that one with a career-high 29 points and six three-pointers as Duke ended UNC’s school-record 31-game home winning streak. Why the Heels allowed Rivers the room to launch a three-pointer is the question.
In reality, UNC had no right losing that game. The Heels went off as six-point favorites and were up 13 in the second half and 10 with 2:10 left – I picked UNC to cover and was feeling quite good about things. Zeller was mostly brilliant in the game with 23 points and 11 rebounds, but he had just four points in the second half and missed two free throws in the final minute, including one with 13.9 seconds left that set up Rivers' winner.
Neither team has lost since the first meeting. However, both have had close calls.
No. 6 UNC escaped at Virginia last Saturday, 54-51, when the Cavs missed two potential tying shots at the end. Duke also was almost tripped up last Saturday but beat Virginia Tech, 70-65, in overtime in Durham. The No. 3 Blue Devils have been rather mediocre, to their standards, at Cameron Indoor this season – both of their conference losses came there (to the Florida schools). And Duke has had a few other close calls at home.
Duke at North Carolina Betting Odds and Trends
Duke opened as a one-point favorite with the total at 153. UNC is 16-13 ATS overall and 4-5 on road. Duke is 13-17 ATS overall and 5-10 at home. ‘Over/under’ records: UNC 14-15, Duke 19-11.
North Carolina has covered five of its past six against teams with winning records. Duke has covered just once in its past eight home games and once in its past six Saturday games (home and away). The under is 6-1 in both teams’ past seven games against teams with winning records. The under is also 6-1 in the past seven meetings in this series. UNC has covered in five of its past six visits to Durham.
College Basketball Picks: North Carolina at Duke Betting Predictions
How even has this rivalry been? In the past 82 meetings, the Tar Heels have outscored the Blue Devils by a single point -- 6,355 to 6,354. That’s astounding.
Coach K has had Roy Williams’ number of late as Duke has won five of the past six in this series. Duke has won both regular-season meetings against North Carolina seven times overall under Coach K, and last accomplishing that in 2009-10. Williams is 8-10 against Duke since arriving in Chapel Hill. Those 10 losses are his most against any opponent in his nine seasons with the Tar Heels, who haven’t won at Cameron since February, 2009. But Williams has won both winner-take-all games against Coach K (last year and 2007-08).
Carolina dominated on the boards in the first one, 41-31. As well it should have considering the Heels lead the nation in rebounding. Plus, UNC shot nearly six percentage points better in the first game and outscored Duke 42-14 in the paint. It lost because Duke was 14-for-36 from three-point range while UNC was just 1-for-6.
Look for much of the same Saturday, with UNC pounding it inside and Duke hoisting from long range. I think the Blue Devils were lucky to win the first game and won’t be so this time – take North Carolina and the over despite all those under trends.
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