(8) North Carolina Tar Heels at (17) Duke Blue Devils (-1)
The latest iteration of college basketball’s biggest and best rivalry hits the floor at Cameron Indoor Stadium tonight (6:30 PM Eastern) when the no. 17 Duke Blue Devils (22-8, 11-6 ACC) host the no. 8 North Carolina Tar Heels (24-6, 13-4 ACC).
Duke looked to have turned a corner on their up-and-down season when they upset UNC in Chapel Hill on February 17. That win was the fifth straight for the team, but the win-streak would stop there. The Blue Devils blew a big lead against Louisville next time out and then lost again to Pittsburgh two games later.
They got back in the win column in their last game, a 79-71 victory over dreadful Wake Forest, but they failed to cover as 16-point favorites.
Duke is officially out of the race for the ACC regular season title, trailing the league-leaders by two games with just one more to play.
North Carolina is one of the aforementioned league leaders. Currently tied with Miami atop the conference, UNC can earn a share of the ACC crown with a win tonight. They helped their own cause two weeks ago, hammering the Hurricanes 96-71. And they kept pace on Tuesday with a 75-70 win over Syracuse. Their only setback in the last four was a tight 79-74 road loss to no. 3 Virginia.
The teams have similar offensive and defensive stats. Duke averages 81.5 points per game (17th in the nation) while allowing 71.0. The Tar Heels are scoring at an 83.1 PPG clip and giving up 70.6 points per night.
Duke, however, relies heavily on its big guns; Brandon Ingram is putting up 21.6 PPG, while Grayson Allen is averaging 16.9 per night. North Carolina has a more balanced attack, with four players averaging over 12 PPG and Brice Johnson leading the way at 16.8 PPG.
UNC is the deeper squad this year and have the record to prove it. But they haven’t been a great bet, going just 11-17-2 ATS.
Duke is an even 14-14-1 against the number and have also won six of the last seven in the series. But the Tar Heels tend to bring their best effort to Chapel Hill and Duke has only covered one of the last five against UNC at Cameron Indoor. With the talented Heels thirsty for revenge, take UNC at the point.
Pick: North Carolina (+1).
(Photo credit: Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (Flickr: 06) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons. Photo has been cropped.)