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North Carolina vs. Duke College Basketball Odds & Pick: Betting Value on Over/Under In Historic Rivalry

North Carolina vs. Duke College Basketball Odds & Pick: Betting Value on Over/Under In Historic Rivalry article feature image

Al Bello/Getty Images. Pictured: Garrison Brooks.

  • One of the best rivalries in sports gets another chapter on Saturday night when North Carolina travels to Durham to face Duke.
  • For the first time since 1960, the two teams will meet with neither ranked in the AP Top 25.
  • What's in store in this battle? Mike Randle previews the battle below.

North Carolina vs. Duke Odds

North Carolina Odds
Duke Odds
+145 / -175
Time | TV
Saturday, 6 p.m. ET | ESPN
Odds as of Saturday afternoon and via BetMGM. Get an INSTANT $500 deposit match at BetMGM today.

Duke vs. North Carolina is one of the greatest rivalries in sports, and each matchup carries great importance in the college basketball landscape. This year’s meeting carries that same significance but for a very different reason. 

The Blue Devils and Tar Heels are both in the midst of disappointing seasons, with neither team ranked in the AP Top 25. This is the first time in 154 meetings that these two blue bloods will meet without at least one team residing in the Top 25. 

Saturday's UNC-Duke matchup will feature two unranked teams for the first time since February 27th, 1960

That's 153 consecutive regular-season meetings

— Mike Randle (@RandleRant) February 5, 2021

With both teams in critical need of this win to bolster their tournament resumes, expect another intense battle in this historic ACC rivalry.

This begs the question: what is the best way to bet Saturday’s UNC-Duke matchup?

The Matchup

The only consistent part of both teams has been their inconsistency. 

North Carolina has played better of late, with six wins in its past eight games. But the Tar Heels have still struggled to win away from Chapel Hill, with just a 2-5 road ACC record.

North Carolina has experienced a huge decrease in offensive efficiency over the past two years. It ranks just 292nd in 3-point accuracy, 291st in free-throw shooting, and a disappointing 224th in 2-point efficiency, its supposed strength. 

The Tar Heels rely on big men Armando Bacot (11.9 ppg) and Garrison Brooks (10.5 ppg) to lead the team in scoring. Without consistent outside shooting, Roy Williams’ offense needs to be initiated from the post, but both players have disappeared at times.

Bacot is coming off a dismal one-point outing against Clemson, while Brooks has single-digit scoring performances in two of UNC’s past three games. Freshman guard Caleb Love (10.3 ppg) has been a bright spot for UNC, but he has single-digit scoring outputs in six of the past nine games. 

The bellwether for the Tar Heels has been dynamic freshman Day’Ron Sharpe (9.6 ppg, 7.8 rpg).

The 6-foot-11 freshman has been an integral part of the UNC attack despite coming off the bench. He had a double-double (16 points, 10 rebounds) in their 86-76 win over N.C. State last week. 

UNC’s struggles on offense have led to a greater emphasis on half-court defense. The Tar Heels rank 29th overall in defensive efficiency and are anchored by a fourth-best 2-point defense, allowing just 48.3% on the interior.

The trio of Bacot, Brooks, and Sharpe has continued the long line of dominant rebounding Tar Heel teams and currently has UNC positioned as the second-best offensive rebounding team in the country. 

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Many experts thought Duke had turned a corner after consecutive wins over Georgia Tech and Clemson. However, the Blue Devils again succumbed to their inconsistent play in a surprising 77-75 road loss at shorthanded Miami. 

The Blue Devils have seen a similar metric drop-off to UNC, except in reverse.

Duke’s defense has been poor in ACC play, ranking just 10th in adjusted defensive efficiency among conference teams. The Blue Devils are also allowing an abysmal 38.2% (14th in conference) from 3-point range to ACC foes.

This is an incredible contrast to a team that was 12th-best nationally in overall defense just one year ago while allowing a microscopic 29% to opponents from beyond the arc. 

The Blue Devils received a huge boost with the return of star freshman Jalen Johnson (12.1 ppg, 7.4 rpg) from a foot injury.

The athletic 6-foot-9 forward has the ability in influence the game on both ends of the floor, as illustrated by his  24 points, 16 rebounds, seven assists, and four blocks in a 79-73 loss at Pittsburgh. 

Duke does not have its usual depth of 3-point shooters, relying heavily on sophomore Matthew Hurt (18.8 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 42% 3) to spread the floor. Hurt is in the midst of a horrific slump, shooting just 21% (3-of-14) from deep over the past three games. 

Freshman guard DJ Steward (13.5 ppg, 4.5 rpg) has found some consistency for the Blue Devils, with double-digit scoring in nine of the past 10 games. Steward is also getting hot from deep, shooting 47% (7-of-15) from beyond the arc over the past three games. 

Both teams look to push the pace, but given their offensive woes, will that correlate to a high-scoring game? 

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Betting Analysis & Pick

UNC-Duke is one of the best rivalries in all of sports and usually produces a close game.

While the last five games between these two teams have gone over the total, I see two struggling offenses with limited outside shooting options. The Tar Heels will look to control tempo inside, while Duke’s only reliable shooter (Hurt) is in the midst of a terrible slump. 

The public will likely back the over in what appears to be a high-scoring shootout. Since the 2005-06 season, the over/under has split at a 50% rate (7-7-1), per our BetLabs data. 

I expect Duke’s offensive struggles to continue, while the Blue Devils’ defense produces a season-best outing against a vanilla UNC attack.

I will be contrarian to the public and take the under in a game I project only one team to break the 70-point mark. 

Wait to watch this line tomorrow, as the public will probably drive up the total to above 146.

Pick: Under 145 (down to 144.5).

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