North Carolina Tar Heels vs No. 7 Duke Blue Devils
Line: Duke -6.5
Where: The Dean Dome
When: Saturday, 2/8, at 6:00 p.m. ET
One of the most intense rivalries in sports will be lacking its usual luster when No. 7 Duke travels to unranked North Carolina on Saturday night.
The Tar Heels have been hit hard by the injury bug and are several games away from clinching a losing record in conference play. Saturday’s game marks the first time North Carolina is unranked going into a game against Duke since 2014, when the Tar Heels knocked off the No. 5 Blue Devils.
Duke is expected to win this one, opening as a 6.5-point favorite at BetOnline on Friday afternoon. By 8:30 p.m. ET, most books had Mike Krzyzewski’s squad favored by eight points, with the total at 150.5 points.
The Blue Devils have lost three consecutive games at the Dean Dome, with their last win coming on Feb. 17, 2016. North Carolina swept Duke in the season series last year, as Zion Williamson blew out his shoe in the opening minutes of the game at Cameron Indoor Stadium and went on to miss the next five games with a knee injury.
The Blue Devils got their revenge in the ACC Tournament semifinals, though, beating the Tar Heels 74-73.
Despite losing three of its last five games, the Tar Heels have finally started to cover the spread. They have gone 4-1 against the spread in those five contests, three of which came on the road.
North Carolina started the year 4-13 ATS and is 1-9 ATS in its last 10 home games. The story has been injuries — starting with freshman point guard Cole Anthony, who is a projected top-10 pick in the 2020 NBA Draft.
He had surgery on his right knee and had not played since Dec. 16 before returning last Saturday. Anthony scored 26 points off the bench against Boston College in his return. He struggled on Monday night against Florida State, going 5-of-22 from the field for 16 points against the No. 8 Seminoles.
Anthony is scoring 19.5 points per game on the season and North Carolina went 4-7 during his absence.
Brandon Robinson, North Carolina’s best shooter on a team that struggles to score, is ‘out’ of Saturday’s game. Head coach Roy Williams said “he’s still in a boot and on crutches.” Robinson was scoring 13.1 PPG and led the team in made 3-pointers.
Despite holding a 12-10 ATS record this season, Duke has struggled to blow teams out lately. The Blue Devils are 2-4 ATS in their last six games and have only covered once in their last six meetings against North Carolina.
Unlike the Tar Heels, Duke is not dealing with injuries and has won 19 of its 22 games this season. Sophomore guard Tre Jones will square off with Anthony in a highly anticipated showdown. Jones is scoring 15.2 PPG and dishing out 6.7 APT.
Freshman center Vernon Carey Jr. leads Duke in scoring with his 17.8 PPG average. He is also the leading rebounder, pulling down 9.0 boards per contest.
Freshman guard Cassius Stanley (12.0 PPG) and freshman forward Matthew Hurt (10.9 PPG) are also scoring in double figures for the Blue Devils.
Carey will square off against North Carolina forward Garrison Brooks, who is scoring 14.9 points and grabbing 9.0 RPG. Freshman forward Armando Bacot could also see some time against Carey.
Duke has been the much more efficient team this season, ranking No. 4 in offensive efficiency and No. 9 in defensive efficiency, according to KenPom. North Carolina comes in at No. 130 and No. 79 in those metrics, respectively.
The Pick: Duke -8
It’s easy to say ‘throw out the records’ because this is a rivalry game. However, there is just too wide of a gap between these teams right now. Duke is healthy and can play up to 10 guys in this game. North Carolina is going to struggle to maintain the same type of intensity down the stretch due to a lack of depth, especially if the Tar Heels are already down by double digits. They have only covered the spread in two home games all season. It is much easier to lay a big number when both teams play fast like these squads do. Duke should be able to run away with this game and cover the spread against a limping North Carolina side.