One of the best rivalries in all of sports will take center stage on Wednesday night when the Duke Blue Devils host the North Carolina Tar Heels. Duke and North Carolina have traditionally been two of the best teams in college basketball, and both teams are currently ranked inside the top-10. This will be the 249th all-time meeting in this historic rivalry, and UNC holds a 137-111 lead over Duke in the first 248 games.
Duke currently leads the Atlantic Coast Conference, but by the slimmest of margins. The Blue Devils have posted an 11-1 record through their first 12 conference games, and are just ahead of Virginia and North Carolina. The Tar Heels have gone 10-2 through their first 12 games and can move into a first-place tie with a win on Wednesday night. Duke is the top-ranked team in the country, while North Carolina has moved all the way up to number eight. Duke is -9.0 over UNC in this game.
Duke’s Defense Sets Them Apart
Head coach Mike Krzyzewski has had a ton of extremely talented players during his tenure at Duke, but this might be one of his best defensive teams. The Blue Devils are allowing just 66.1 points per game this season, which is impressive considering how fast Duke plays. Duke is averaging more than 10 steals per game, and these steals usually lead to easy points for the Blue Devils. They are also hard to score on in the paint, averaging 7 blocks per game, and they will challenge every shot. North Carolina is a great offensive team, but the Duke defense is elite.
RJ Barrett might be the best player in college basketball this season, even if Zion Williamson gets all of the hype and publicity. Barrett is averaging close to 23 points per game this season and can score in a variety of ways. Williamson is shooting close to 70 percent from the floor and is almost impossible to stop when he gets a head of steam heading to the rim. Duke does still struggle shooting the basketball at just 31 percent from three, but they have enough athleticism to get to the rim when necessary.
Don’t Sleep On UNC’s Freshmen
The Duke freshman class has gotten a ton of attention, but North Carolina has a pair of freshmen superstars as well in Nassir Little and Coby White. Coby White has taken over the point guard role for Roy Williams, and he is the catalyst behind a high scoring offense. White is averaging 15.7 points per game this season while shooting close to 38 percent from the three-point line. Nassir Little is a future NBA Lottery Pick that is really starting to come into this own in Chapel Hill. Little is averaging just 9.6 points per game, but his athleticism and length will be needed against Duke.
North Carolina is averaging more points than Duke this season, scoring more than 87 points per game. The Tar Heels take a ton of three-point shots and are shooting 38.6 percent from the three-point line on the season. Senior guard Cameron Johnson will need to get some open looks in this game if the Tar Heels are going to keep it close. Johnson is shooting 47.9 percent from three while averaging a team-high 16.3 points per game for UNC. The Tar Heels won’t be afraid to run with Duke in this game.
Duke Wins Close Game
Duke clearly has more talent than North Carolina, but talent rarely matters in this intense rivalry. These two teams are bitter rivals, and they always deliver memorable and close games. This should be a high scoring affair, and UNC will hang in there the entire way. Duke is winning this game, but nine points is a lot to cover. Take the points and bet North Carolina +9.0 over the Duke Blue Devils.