College Basketball Betting: North Carolina at Duke Preview
by Robert Ferringo - 02/11/2009
I don't feel bad for Duke. Not at all.
I don't feel bad that they enter tonight's big, super-huge, incredibly important, earth-shattering game with North Carolina as home underdogs. Or that they are given virtually no shot to win by fans, cappers, and bettors. I don't feel bad that they can't compete, physically, with the Tar Heels or for the fact that if both teams play their normal game then UNC will win by double digits.
I don't feel bad for my mortal college basketball enemy. In fact, I love it.
No. 5 Duke hosts the No. 3 Tar Heels at 9 p.m. on Wednesday at Cameron Indoor Stadium. The Blue Devils are slight 1.5-point underdogs and the total is set at 155.
North Carolina has actually won outright in its last three trips to Durham, so it's clear that the Heels aren't intimidated by the Cameron Crazies at all. North Carolina is 5-1 against the spread in the last six meetings and 8-2 ATS in their last 10 trips to Durham.
For Duke, the silver lining in the dark cloud of confidence and capability that the Heels have hovering over Durham is that the underdog has been the play in this series. The puppy is 12-3 ATS in the last 15 Biggest Games…Ever. In fact, the last two times that one of these clubs was a 1.5-point underdog (North Carolina in 2008 and Duke in 2005) the puppy won outright.
This is really a matchup nightmare for the Blue Devils because they essentially have to concede the interior. Now, Brian Zoubek could actually be a capable defender against Tyler Hansbrough. He's taller, longer, and he has shown flashes of being equally active. However, Zoubek only gets five fouls and Hansbrough has had his way with much better big men than Big Z. So if Psycho T and the bigger, stronger Heels are controlling the boards and forcing the tempo and the attitude of this game then things could get ugly for The Future Bosses Of America.
On the perimeter it doesn't get much easier for the Devils. Greg Paulus gets the nod in a somewhat tactical but mostly symbolic maneuver by Coach K. But Paulus has proven time and time again that he can't defend guards that are quicker than he. Ty Lawson is exactly that. Now, I'm not a huge Ty Lawson fan, but this year he's knocking down 49 percent from deep and has a ridiculous 4-to-1 turnover-to-assist ratio. If he wins this battle then this one gets ugly.
Further, Wayne Ellington has been out of his mind lately. He's knocking down 47 percent from the field for the season and has topped 20 points in four of six games. The quirk is that Ellington has not topped 20 points on the road this year. He will likely be matched up with Gerald Henderson, Duke's top all-around performer.
Jon Scheyer and Kyle Singler are not athletic but they are skilled. That pair is another key for the Dookies. The Blue Devils are 5-0 this year when Scheyer scores more than 20 points and Singler scored just 11 points in two games before a brutal 5-for-23 performance against the Hurricanes.
These types of mismatches were precisely the problem in Duke's losses to Wake Forest and Clemson, as well as their weak fist half against Miami. In fact, a lack of athleticism and dearth of physical inside presence has haunted the Blue Devils for the last five years. They lose games against teams that are more physical and against teams that are more athletic. North Carolina is both.
Yet, games at this time of year are as much about motivation as they are about matchups. And Duke should be a pretty live home dog in front of a berserker crowd. Also, Duke does have an advantage on the defensive front. In fact, North Carolina's only real weakness is defensive lapses. They play at a ridiculously high tempo and they can get sucked into simply trying to outscore teams. If they aren't dedicated on defense then they could let the Blue Devils hang around. That's what occurred in the Wake Forest game and the Deacons almost blew it.
Also, aversion to defense is exactly what allowed the Blue Devils to steal a game in Raleigh last year.
Naturally, the X-Factor in this game is Duke's three-point shooting. Like a plucky mid-major trying to knock off a mighty Goliath, the Blue Devils are going to be slinging stones from the cheap seats. The Blue Devils launched a school-record 39 three-pointers against Miami on Saturday. They made just 12 of them. And even though Duke hits 35.5 percent of their treys at home for the season they are just 28-for-101 from long distance over their last four games.
This one is pretty basic: if Duke knocks down its threes they have a chance. If they knock down a lot of threes they could win. If they don't, well, it could be a pleasant night at the Ferringo household as the Devils get dominated again.