Duke-UNC Betting Preview
by Robert Ferringo - 02/05/2008
Outside skill or inside will? Royal blue or baby blue? Home favorite with an individual vendetta or higher-ranked road underdog looking for team revenge? Lots of questions about the regional and national college basketball landscape are going to be answered on Wednesday night when Duke wanders down Tobacco Road to tussle with No. 3 North Carolina in the biggest rivalry game in college basketball.
Second-ranked Duke will travel to Chapel Hill to face No. 3 North Carolina at 9 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 6. Duke is 19-1 overall on the season and currently in first place in the ACC with a perfect 7-0 league mark. North Carolina is 20-1 and in second place in the ACC at 6-1.
The Tar Heels have controlled the series recently, winning four of the last six meetings outright including a clean sweep last season. North Carolina has been the second most profitable team in the country this year with a 15-4 mark against the spread and they are 4-1 ATS in their last five games against Duke at the Dean Dome.
Also, North Carolina is a sensational 10-3 ATS against the spread in this rivalry dating back to 2002. That being said, they will likely be favored in this contest (no line was available at the time this was published) and the chalk is just 3-10 ATS in the series.
This game features the proverbial "contrast in styles" as Duke is an exclusively perimeter team matched up against the interior size and strength of the Tar Heels. The tallest player in the Duke rotation is just 6-feet, 8-inches, and it's a soft 6-8 at that. North Carolina leads the nation in rebounding margin at +11.9 per game while Duke is just 99th. Conversely, the Blue Devils are 51st in the nation in 3-point accuracy while the Tar Heels are just 108th.
Both teams are comfortable in an up-tempo game and both feel comfortable if the score reaches the 80s. But the game will be determined by which club is able to execute their style of play. The Blue Devils will have absolutely no answer on the interior for North Carolina's All-American, 7-0 center Tyler Hansbrough. But I also don't see how UNC will be able to tag the plethora of shooters that the Blue Devils station around the arc.
Can UNC trade two-point baskets for three-point baskets for 40 minutes? Can Duke make enough trifecta's to even make it an issue? Any bet on this game should be based on how you answer those fundamental questions.
There is never a question of motivation in this matchup. And as I had mentioned, the puppy is on a stellar 10-3 ATS rush when these schools face off. However, beyond the exhausted historical and geographic subplots there are several more recent themes that underlie this matchup.
This is the first time these teams have met since last year's game at UNC where Duke forward Gerald Henderson treated Hansbrough's face like a whack-a-mole last March. That cheap shot by Henderson came with less than 20 seconds left in an 86-72 Tar Heel blowout and resulted in a broken nose for UNC's All-American forward. Coach Roy Williams and Hansbrough are too classy to exact any sinister manner of revenge. But you know that the baby blue-clad crowd is going to be all over Henderson, who has become Duke's second-leading scorer. I'm not certain that Henderson, a sophomore, is mature enough to handle the scene. And if he is a non-factor I don't know where the Blue Devils will find scoring to pick up the slack.
North Carolina does have issues of its own. Sophomore point guard Ty Lawson left the Tar Heels' last game with a severely sprained ankle and is questionable to play on Wednesday. While I do expect him to be in uniform, I don't expect him to see any serious minutes. UNC already lost backup point guard Bobby Frasor for the season, which leaves third-string triggerman Quentin Thomas to run the show for the high-octane Heels. Thomas is a senior and does have plenty of experience but he is nowhere near the floor leader that Lawson is.
I think Thomas will be ready. I think Henderson should be ready. And I know Dickie V will be ready. Now the only remaining issue is which team is going to cover one of the most highly anticipated and most actively wagered games on the college hoops calendar.