Duke vs. North Carolina: Odds & Picks: How to Bet College Basketball’s Greatest Rivalry
Grant Halverson/Getty Images. Pictured: Paolo Banchero.
- The Duke Blue Devils make the short trip to the Dean Dome on Saturday to take on the North Carolina Tar Heels.
- Widely regarded as the best rivalry in college basketball, this edition means a lot for Duke in the race for the ACC.
- Read on for Shane McNichol's top bet for this classic Carolina-Duke game.
Duke vs. North Carolina Odds
-120o / -102
|North Carolina Odds|
-120o / -102
This game is a perfect storm for fans of college basketball, combining big picture storylines and the minutiae that basketball junkies and bettors love.
First and foremost, it’s Duke and Carolina. The sales pitch could stop there. When the Blue Devils and Tar Heels meet, no matter the records or rankings, it’s appointment television.
Add in some extra context, and there’s even more to get excited about. Mike Krzyzewski’s farewell tour has gotten its fair share of publicity and eye rolls, but it’s hard to be cynical about his final trip to the Dean Dome to take on Carolina. The crowd will be in rare form, creating a buzzing atmosphere for this rivalry game.
Lastly, this is a big game, regardless of the names on the jerseys. First place in the ACC is on the line. Duke currently holds a one-game lead over a host of chasing challengers. A win could catapult the Blue Devils to the runaway conference championship many expected from them. North Carolina would love nothing more than to spoil those chances.
If you somehow need one more reason to get excited for this one, there are plenty of juicy angles for bettors.
Duke’s in an odd position at this time of the year. Believe it or not, the Blue Devils are riding a bit below the radar in some respects. They’ve slid to the back half of the top 10 in the polls and hold just a one-game lead in a shaky ACC.
Don’t be fooled: This Duke team is still a force with a chance to get hot late in this season. The sportsbooks aren’t sleeping on Coach K’s club. Duke still has the second shortest odds to cut down the nets in April (+1000 at DraftKings).
That makes sense given the resume of this Duke team, despite its flaws. Duke has lost just three games by a combined eight points. Those losses came on the road at Ohio State, in overtime at Florida State, and by just two points at home to Miami. Hardly a reason for panic.
The Blue Devils do have flaws. Duke’s perimeter defense has been porous at times, making Mark Williams and Theo John’s job protecting the rim that much more difficult.
Duke can also get stagnant offensively, often asking players to win in isolation rather than finding easy baskets in transition or in the flow of an offense.
Ultimately, if these Blue Devils defend to their potential, few teams are going to be able to manufacture quality looks at the rim. Coach K may be seasoned and on his way out the door, but he understands modern basketball. Offenses want to mine for 3s and free throws. Duke excels at preventing both.
The Blue Devils allow the lowest free-throw rate in the nation and the lowest percentage of points scored from the free-throw line.
Duke is forcing teams to either take low percentage 2-point jump shots or deal with the length of Williams, John, and future lottery pick Paolo Banchero at the rim. Duke is allowing opponents to shoot 53% at the rim, per Hoop-Math, the best mark in the ACC.
In Carolina’s first year without Roy Williams, things look a little bit different. Hubert Davis has the Heels’ offense playing a touch slower, looking for more opportunities in the half-court. That’s smart given the construction of this roster.
Junior center Armando Bacot is the headliner. He’s a double-double machine and one of the nation’s best rebounders. Bacot has a double-double in all but five of Carolina’s games this year.
If the Tar Heels sped things up to their typical run-and-gun tempo, Bacot wouldn’t have the time to establish position in the post. Instead, the Heels run things from inside to out, finding Bacot touches as a roll man, on the block, or off offensive rebounds.
Carolina has surrounded Bacot with shooters who can punish teams that send double teams or extra rebounders into the paint.
Caleb Love’s development as a shooter and playmaker after a rocky freshman year has been key to creating a flow in this offense. Love is shooting 42% from long range — up from just 27% last year — and his turnover rate has sharply dipped.
Bacot might be the focal point for defenses, but Love is the straw that stirs Carolina’s drink.
Duke vs. North Carolina Betting Pick
Duke is the better team in this matchup, but this will be the Blue Devils’ toughest test since they played Gonzaga in Las Vegas on Black Friday.
Since entering 2022, the Blue Devils have gotten caught sleepwalking on a few occasions. That certainly can’t happen on Saturday if Coach K wants to make the short ride home with a win.
It’s rare for either side in a rivalry this fierce to come out of the tunnel lacking energy. If this young Duke team can handle the road environment early on, it’s in a position to win this game.
Carolina relies on its size and athleticism advantages to create scores and stops. Against the Blue Devils, those advantages disappear. Duke’s frontline is too big, too strong, and too springy to let Carolina have its way in the paint.
I like Duke to steal a road win and cover.