North Carolina at No. 12 Duke
Line: Duke -11.5
Total: 152.5 points
Where: Cameron Indoor Stadium
When: Saturday, 3/7, at 6:00 p.m. ET
The last time Duke and North Carolina played, college basketball received one of its best games of the season.
North Carolina, a 7.5-point underdog, led by 13 points with under five minutes to play. Duke rallied down the stretch and an intentional missed free throw led to a Tre Jones buzzer beater to force overtime.
The Blue Devils won the game 98-96 on a putback at the horn in the extra session, cashing Duke money-line tickets and North Carolina spread wagers. Jones led Duke with 28 points, while Cole Anthony paced the Tar Heels with 24 points and 11 rebounds.
North Carolina is now on a three-game winning streak both straight up and against the spread. The Tar Heels have strung together wins against North Carolina State (-2), Syracuse (+5) and Wake Forest (-8) to improve to 13-17 on the season.
The ‘over’ is 5-1 in UNC’s last six games, but it has struggled to a 2-8 ATS mark in their last 10 road assignments.
Saturday night’s showdown will complete the season series in one of the premier rivalries in sports. North Carolina has covered in five straight in this rivalry and is 14-5 ATS in the last 19 games played at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
Duke has won six consecutive home games, but it has been a different story on the road. The Blue Devils have lost their last three road contests since picking up the miraculous win at the Dean Dome in early February.
They snapped a two-game losing skid with a win and cover at home against North Carolina State on Monday night. Duke was a 12-point favorite and exploded in the second half to win by 19.
One of the Blue Devils’ most shocking performances of the year came two games prior, where they lost at Wake Forest, 113-101, in double overtime. They were 11-point road favorites and had won 11 straight against the Demon Deacons.
Duke is now 3-6 ATS in its last nine games overall. The totals have been set too low in its games, with five of the last six going ‘over’ the number. However, six of the last seven contests between Duke and North Carolina have gone ‘under.’
North Carolina starting center Armando Bacot’s status for Saturday’s game is unknown. He suffered an ankle injury last Saturday at Syracuse and was held out of the mid-week win over Wake Forest. Bacot scored 12 points and grabbed seven rebounds in 29 minutes against Duke on Feb. 8.
Anthony leads the Tar Heels in scoring (20.2 points per game) and assists (4.1 APG). Junior forward Garrison Brooks is adding 16.4 PPG and a team-high 8.7 RPG.
North Carolina’s bench outscored Duke 25-13 in the first meeting of the season, as Justin Pierce and Christian Keeling combined for 23 of those points.
Freshman center Vernon Carey Jr. leads Duke in scoring (17.6 PPG) and rebounding (8.7 RPG). Jones is the court general, scoring 16.1 points and dishing out 6.2 APG. Freshman guard Cassius Stanley is adding 12.3 PPG and 4.8 RPG.
North Carolina is No. 84 in KenPom’s rankings and will have to win the ACC Tournament to earn a bid to the Big Dance. Duke is No. 6 at KenPom and is slated as a No. 3-seed in Joe Lunardi’s latest Bracketology update.
The pick: Duke -11.5
Everything seemed to go right for North Carolina in the first meeting of the season — until the final few minutes, that is. Yet still, the Tar Heels were unable to pull off the upset in front of their home crowd. Anthony and Bacot, if he’s able to play, will be making their first trip to Cameron Indoor on Saturday night. Duke has been slipping up lately, but it should be fully in-tune for this game. If Bacot is out or limited, Carey will have that much more of an advantage in the paint. Duke has covered double-digit spreads in its last three home games in that role. The Blue Devils covered easily in all three games (North Carolina State, Virginia Tech and Notre Dame), in fact. They have been much better ATS in home games than on the road this season. A fully focused Duke team should win this game by 20 points.