The best rivalry in college basketball renews on Thursday, as Roy Williams and UNC host Coach K and Duke. Its the 246th meeting between these teams, and their first since North Carolina won their sixth national title last year.
While UNC are defending champs, the young additions to Duke have made them one of the favorites to cut down the nets this year. Having just one NBA-bound big makes things tough for opponents, but Wendell Carter and Marvin Bagley III have been dominant inside for the Blue Devils.
That being said, both teams are sliding heading into Thursday. Duke has lost two of their last three, including a loss at The Garden to unranked St. Johns. Carolina has been even worse, dropping three of four to fall to 6-5 in conference play.
Duke vs. UNC Odds
UNC opened as a slight underdog in this matchup, but the line has moved to the point where the Tar Heels are a 1.5-point home favorite according to OddsShark. The point total is set at 166, with 66 percent of the action on the over.
Over their last 10 meetings, Duke is in firm control of this rivalry. The Blue Devils are 6-3-1 against UNC over that span, with their most recent meeting coming in the semifinals of the 2017 ACC Tournament.
While North Carolina enter with a 17-7 record this season, they are just 12-10-1 against the spread. Where they have really struggled is close games, especially games where the Vegas spread is low. In 2018 games with a spread total of five either way, UNC are 0-4-1.
Of course, the history between the teams becomes less relevant as the rosters change. Duke have similarly struggled against the spread this season, but they’ve been dealing with larger spreads for most of the season. Duke have been a single-digit favorite just twice since November, and this will be just their second game as an underdog this season.
Duke vs. UNC Prediction
Duke is pretty impressive. They’re the second-best rebounding team in the country. The only team they trail is UNC, who lead the nation with just over 43 rebounds per game. The battle for these loose balls will determine who has the edge in Chapel Hill.
Tactically, Duke has been determined to stick with a 2-3 zone this season. While that could give them the edge inside, SB Nation’s Brandon Anderson notes that it could make the visitors vulnerable to outside shooting. UNC is shooting nearly 22 three-pointers per game, but they’ve been torched by Duke from behind the arc in recent meetings.
Luke Maye has to have a big game for Carolina. After scoring just four points in 34 minutes in a loss to Clemson, Maye bounced back with a 26/8/5 effort over the weekend against Pitt. Maye has been crucial for UNC in the paint this season, but has had some disappointing single-digit scoring efforts in losses.
Duke will come out with youthful energy, but I trust the home team to carry the action late. It should be a different story when the teams meet at Cameron Indoor next month.
Heavy’s Prediction: UNC 89, Duke 86