Duke-UNC Betting Guide: Do Odds Reflect Zion Williamson’s Absence Enough?

Duke-UNC Betting Guide: Do Odds Reflect Zion Williamson’s Absence Enough? article feature image
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Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Cam Reddish

Duke at North Carolina Betting Odds

  • Spread: UNC -3
  • Over/Under: 165.5
  • Time: 6 p.m. ET
  • TV: ESPN

>> All odds as of Friday night. Download The Action Network App to get real-time odds and live win probabilities on your bets.


After losing Zion Williamson less than a minute into the game and getting blown out the rest of the way, Duke will look to avenge its loss to North Carolina from less than three weeks ago.

Williamson is doubtful, which has swung the spread a few points, but is it enough? More than 80% of bettors think so. Let’s dive in.

Key Trends for Duke-UNC

It is difficult playing on the road against a top-five opponent, but this is a situation that Duke has thrived in. Since 2005, the Blue Devils are 8-1-2 against the spread in road games against top-five teams, which is a marked improvement compared to their 3-7-1 ATS record when facing a highly ranked opponent at home. John Ewing

Since 2005, in matchup of top-five teams, the underdog has gone 38-28-3 (57.6%) ATS. If the contest features conference opponents the underdog has gone 23-9-2 (71.9%) ATS. Ewing

People talk more about Duke’s home-court advantage at Cameron Indoor Stadium, but Carolina has actually performed much better ATS at home since 2005. In fact, only two teams have been more profitable to bet on at home since 2005:

Duke has been profitable (120-105-7 ATS) at home ATS, but nowhere near as good as UNC has been. Stuckey

Duke is 18-9 (66.7%) to the under this season in their 27 games listed with an over/under, profiting bettors 7.1 units.

Since 2005, this would be Duke’s most profitable season to the under and the second-most profitable season to the over or under in that span behind just 2011-12, when Duke went 20-13-1 to the over. Evan Abrams

Will UNC Dominate Down Low Again?

Whether or not Williamson suits up plays a role in the effectiveness of the Blue Devils’ defense. He has generated the 21st-highest steal rate and 114th-highest block rate in college hoops this season.

Nevertheless, Duke has allowed the ACC’s highest 2-point scoring rate (57.8%) — with or without the five-star freshman in the lineup. The Tar Heels own a 51.3% scoring rate from that vicinity and gashed Mike Krzyzewski’s unit to the tune of a 65.5% clip in their last meeting. Expect forwards Cameron Johnson (16.9 ppg) and Luke Maye (14.9 ppg) to have their way inside once again, especially in transition.

Moreover, the Blue Devils have struggled to control to tempo in their five games without Williamson because of the inability to keep opponents off the offensive glass. Duke has allowed double-digit offensive rebounds in four of those games, and UNC owns the league’s highest rebounding rate in that department (35.0%).

Even with Williamson around, they possessed a below-average defensive rebounding rate, handing UNC another clear-cut advantage. Eli Hershkovich

A Tale of Two

Life before Zion. Life after Zion.

Williamson does so much for Duke that still somehow goes unnoticed and mostly untracked in the boxscore, despite his presence, massive profile and explosiveness. The Blue Devils are hitting just 24% of their 3-pointers without him and his ability to penetrate has a lot to do with that. One of the worst shooting teams in the country has somehow gotten worse.

It’s a small sample, but here are some of Duke’s splits in 25 games with Williamson and five games without.Steve Petrella

Stuckey: What Should This Spread Really Be?

I think the most interesting part of this game is where the spread settles. I think there is some stubbornness on the part of oddsmakers and bettors on how much Williamson could really be worth.

As I highlighted in my piece on Zion’s worth, many have alluded to the fact that he’s worth five points to the spread, which we’ve seen with Duke’s lines since he’s been out.

But I think he’s actually worth seven points. It’s hard for many to believe one college basketball player to be worth that much, but Zion is an anomaly.

Look no further than Zion’s PER of 42.4 — the highest recorded in the history of college basketball. No player has ever even finished with a single-season PER above 37.

I made UNC +8.5 at Duke in the first matchup. I have since adjusted UNC up a half point and Duke down a half point. After adjusting the spread seven points for the home-court advantage swing, I think Duke should be -1 at UNC if both teams were completely healthy.

As a result, if Williamson is officially ruled out, I think UNC should be a 6-point home favorite, but I don’t think oddsmakers will make it that high nor will the market move it to that level to account for Williamson’s true, unprecedented impact. So you’re getting value at -3.

Where the total closes will also be intriguing. That first meeting was an absolute track meet and should’ve shattered if not for 10-of-59 shooting from deep. I doubt either team shoots as poorly as it the second time around.

The Stakes

While neither team will likely get the No. 1 seed in ACC Tournament (Virginia can lock that up with a home win over Louisville), this game still has No. 1 seed implications — the more important kind.

It will be hard to make a case for Duke as a No. 1 seed over UNC if the Heels sweep Duke, even if the Blue Devils didn’t have Zion for either game. The winner of this game has a great shot at securing a No. 1 seed, while the loser will most likely drop to a No. 2 seed without an ACC tournament win. Duke is also looking to avenge an embarrassing home loss and avoid being swept by UNC for the first time since 2008-09.

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