Two of the most most prestigious programs in college basketball face off against each other as the North Carolina Tar Heels host the Duke Blue Devils on Saturday. The Tar Heels have struggled this season but expect Roy Williams to have his squad well-prepared for a Duke team that is ranked No. 7 in the country.
We break down the odds with our best bets and predictions for this marquee NCAA matchup.
DUKE BLUE DEVILS AT NORTH CAROLINA TAR HEELS (+8, O/U 150)
Duke has plenty of firepower with Vernon Carey Jr, Tre Jones and Cassius Stanley all capable of filling up the hoop. And the Blue Devils don’t waste any time getting going, putting up 40.4 first half points per game (third-best in the country).
If you’re looking for an early wager to cash early, banking on the Blue Devils to get to 20 points first looks like the right call, even if it is juicy.
PICK: Race To 20 Points – Duke
This rivalry doesn’t have its usual luster this season with the Tar Heels currently sitting two games under .500. But there has been a glimmer of hope on the horizon when point guard Cole Anthony returned to the lineup last week after missing 11 games with a knee injury. With Anthony back in action, the Tar Heels have at least looked competent, losing by a single point to Boston College and hanging tight against Florida State.
Anthony gives UNC a shot creator and talented ball handler. Expect the Tar Heels to stay in this game early and back them on the first half spread.
PICK: First Half Spread North Carolina +4.5
Although Duke averages 82.5 ppg, there’s nothing like a big game in hostile territory to make the basket seem smaller.
One thing that North Carolina does very well, is clean the glass on the defensive end of the court where they rank 12th in the country in rebounding rate. Tar Heel forwards Armando Bacot and Garrison Brooks provide enough size and athleticism to stand up to Duke big man Vernon Carey Jr.
Expect UNC to contain Carey and limit Duke’s ability to get second chances on the offensive end of the floor. It’s also worth noting that UNC hasn’t allowed an opponent to put up more than 71 points in regulation since January 8. With Duke’s team total for this game set at 79, back the Under.
PICK: Team Total Duke Under 79
We think Duke will go Under their lofty team total but we don’t think UNC will have an easy time getting buckets either. The Tar Heels have been very inefficient on offense, ranking outside the Top-300 with a field goal percentage of 40.8. And before you assume that Anthony might improve that, consider that they have shot just 38.9 percent from the floor in the 11 games that he has played.
North Carolina has a bad habit of stopping all offensive movement and playing stagnant when Anthony has the ball. That’s bad news against a Duke team that is among the best squads in the country in blocks, steals and forcing turnovers. We’re banking on another frustrating offensive performance from UNC, and taking the game total Under.
PICK: Under 150
The Blue Devils have been a solid bet coming off a loss, owning a long-running 46-8 SU mark and a 30-23-1 ATS record (56 percent) when losing the previous game.
While we don’t think the Blue Devils will be able to run away with this game early, they should be able to seperate towards the end. As good as Anthony is, the Tar Heels had lost three of their last four games prior to his injury, and that included a 25-point home loss to Ohio State and a 7-point loss to Michigan.
There’s a reason that Duke ranks fifth in the country in offensive efficiency and eighth in defensive efficiency, while UNC ranks outside the Top-200 in OFF efficiency and outside the Top-100 in DEF efficiency. Duke simply has too many weapons and plays with more cohesiveness and better execution. Back the Blue Devils to win and cover the spread.
PICK: Duke -8