You can make an argument for another rivalry, but you would be wrong. Duke and North Carolina are the premier rivalry game in college basketball and possibly all of sports.
When these two teams hook up, you throw out the records and just enjoy. To try and handicap this matchup is possibly an act of futility, but that is what they pay me for.
The Duke Blue Devils have won four games in a row, including consecutive road games. They are coming off a game against Boston College in Chestnut Hill, Mass., in which they were less than impressive. However, the mark of a good team is being able to win when you are not at your best. To win when you aren’t at your best while you’re on the road? That is the mark of a possibly great team.
Duke is led by freshman big man Vernon Carey Jr. (17.8 points, nine rebounds) in the frontcourt and sophomore Tre Jones (15.2 points, 6.7 assists) in the backcourt. The Blue Devils are non-typically deep this season, with 10 players averaging at least 13 minutes per game.
When it comes to Duke, things are pretty simple. The Blue Devils are very good. They can shoot. They have a dominant big man. They have a point guard that you probably dislike unless you’re a Duke fan.
When it comes to the Tar Heels, things aren’t quite so simple. North Carolina is simply not good this season. Even with the return of future NBA lottery pick Cole Anthony, North Carolina lost to Boston College on the road while receiving 26 points from Anthony.
The Tar Heels were able to cover in their most recent game, a trip to Florida State, but ultimately lost. The point is, Anthony needs some help.
North Carolina needs to utilize Garrison Brooks and Armando Bacot in this game with more intent than offensive rebounders and afterthoughts. The best Tar Heels teams run the offense through their bigs, not ball-dominant point guards. That said, I don’t expect that to change Saturday.
The Blue Devils are favored by 6.5 points on the road, with the over/under set at 150.5.
In a game where you throw out the records, you still need a trend to look at. The Blue Devils are 6-1 straight up in true road games this season and 4-3 against the spread. Of course, there is always a counterpoint; that being that the Blue Devils are 2-4 ATS in their last most recent six games.
On the season, the Bue Devils are 12-10 against the spread. As far as the totals go, Duke has gone over in 15 of 22 games this season and four of seven true road games. Recently, the total has gone over in six of the Blue Devils’ last seven.
Ready To Go
Nothing that we have seen from this North Carolina team says that it can win. The Tar Heels are a terrible 8-14 against the spread overall on the season and an even more atrocious 2-9 ATS at home. North Carolina did seem to figure it out towards the end of Anthony’s absence; however, the Tar Heels are 4-1 ATS in their last five games.
On the season the Tar Heels’ record over/under at home is 5-5-1; however, they have gone under the total in each of their last six games.
In all honesty, the game is a stay-away for me. If it were in Durham, it’s probably an easy Duke cover. What did I say in the North Carolina-Florida State preview, though? Hungry dogs run faster.
North Carolina is currently way out of the NCAA Tournament picture, but a win against its hated rival at home is a significant victory on multiple fronts, and the wine and cheese crowd will turn out in droves Saturday.
If you are set on betting this game, take the under, 150 is way too high. If I am betting the spread, take North Carolina to cover in what could be Anthony’s career day. Brooks is crafty and experienced enough to give Carey problems.
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