North Carolina vs. Duke Basketball Odds & Pick: Bet the Blue Devils To Cover Saturday’s Spread vs. UNC
Mark Brown/Getty Images. Pictured: Jordan Goldwire (14 ) of the Duke Blue Devils brings the ball up the court.
- The Duke Blue Devils are losers of two two straight, but there's a path for them against the North Carolina Tar Heels.
- Find out why our college basketball analyst is betting on Duke to cover Saturday's spread against UNC.
Duke vs. North Carolina Odds
Duke and North Carolina resume their rivalry in the final game of the ACC regular season in Chapel Hill on Saturday night. However, unlike most years, there won't be a full crowd, and both teams could still actually miss the NCAA Tournament.
How big is this game for Duke? Well, a loss for the Blue Devils could ultimately cost them any shot at the NCAA Tournament (assuming they don't win or make a deep run in the ACC Tournament). Not only that, if Duke drops this game, it would stay as the No. 10 seed in the ACC Tourney. That means no bye and playing on Wednesday against Boston College.
However, a Duke win would really help its resume and also secure the No. 9 seed and a first-round bye in Greensboro.
There's a very unlikely chance Duke and UNC actually face each other again in the 8-9 game on Thursday with a Duke victory and if Pitt upsets Clemson. If you want UNC-Duke Part 3, the more likely path would be in a potential 7-10 matchup if UNC wins tonight and then Duke beats Boston College in the first round of the ACC Tournament.
But enough about next week, let's get back to tonight's game. I actually think Duke has a decent chance of avenging its home loss last month.
What Has Changed Since The First Meeting?
This is a different Duke team than the one we saw in that first meeting, which UNC pulled out in a thriller, 91-87. So, what happened in that game? Well, UNC's freshman guard duo of Caleb Love and Kerwin Walton absolutely went off, combining for 37 points on 8-of-9 shooting from behind the arc.
Walton can get very hot from beyond the arc, but Love going 4-of-5 from deep was extremely uncharacteristic. He's just a 23% shooter from 3 on the season. As a team, UNC shot 10-of-15 (66.67%) from long range, which is pretty wild for a team that is just 30.4% on the season — 308th in the nation.
Not only did UNC's freshman guards have a field day off the dribble and from the perimeter, but the UNC bigs were also extremely efficient inside. T
hat was when Jalen Johnson was still with Duke, which meant it was before the emergence of Mark Williams, who provides the Dukies with a legit rim presence. That's huge against the endless length that UNC possesses on the low block.
Also, potential ACC POY Matthew Hurt had the worst game of his season, scoring only a season-low seven points. He also fouled out with four minutes to go in a game that hung in the balance until the final minute.
Despite all of that, Duke still managed to put up 87 points in a four-point loss.
Betting Analysis & Pick
There's no doubt that Duke has been better since losing potential first-round draft pick Jalen Johnson. There were rumors of locker room and chemistry issues, and he never seemed to find a role.
The efficiency numbers also back up what my eyes have told me. Plus, it allowed for Williams to get more playing time, which helped provide Duke with a much-needed interior defender.
Yes, Duke has lost two straight, but both came in overtime to two tournament teams in Louisville and Georgia Tech, and Hurt fouled out of that Georgia Tech loss on a number of very questionable calls (and that's coming from a Georgia Tech backer).
I think Duke actually finds a way.
I expect a lot of zone defense, forcing a bad-shooting UNC team into long jumpers. UNC ranks in the 27th percentile in zone offense in terms of Points Per Possession on the season, per Synergy.
The emergence of Williams will also make it tougher for the Tar Heels' bigs this time around. I also expect a much better performance from Hurt.
UNC will do work on the offensive glass as usual, but I'm rolling with Coach K here. I've had a good read on this Duke team of late, so hopefully I don't end up with pie in my face here.
Pick: Duke +3 or better.