Don’t let the disappointing seasons from both units fool you, this is still very much one of the most heated rivalries in basketball and you can expect them to bring the hatred in this matchup. This is the first time we will not witness either coach Roy Williams or Mike Krzyzewski, yet we can expect a strategic chess match against two vastly different identities. With star power on both ends, who will come out on top in what will be a crucial ACC rivalry matchup?
North Carolina Vs. Duke Odds
Oddsmakers believe Duke will come out on top by opening them up as a -3.5 favorite. Bettors have initially sided with the road dogs, taking UNC down to +3 in some shops. This comes as a slight surprise after another UNC let down performance against Pittsburgh, but rest assured motivation will not be an issue in this one. They bring back nearly the same core that thwarted Duke last year in the Final Four, knowing exactly how to pull it off once again as Duke runs the same identity as last season.
As for the total, oddsmakers believe points will be scored at a quick pace by opening the number at 145. Bettors were quick to hammer the under, taking it down to 143 before it was widely available. This forced oddsmakers to remove the number off the board, anticipating it will open back up around the low 140’s. This is an instant stay away from me as UNC’s offensive production has been a roller coaster throughout the season. Their offensive variance makes the outcome of the total practically unpredictable on a nightly basis.
North Carolina Vs. Duke Prediction & Pick
The Pick: North Carolina +3.5
It feels weird to say for a team that is 15-7 who possesses enough star power to beat anyone in the nation, but this is a must win game for the Tar Heels should they want to build any sort of late season momentum. Momentum has been their biggest issue throughout the year, bluntly lacking any sort of consistency and drive to put away inferior competition. That was once again made apparent in their last game out, losing outright to Pittsburgh.
Lucky for the Tar Heels, momentum should not be an issue this time around as this is the biggest rivalry in basketball. While I’m still skeptical of Hubert Davis for the long run, he has shown a knack for getting his team to step up in the biggest games. When North Carolina isn’t looking disinterested and running a one man show type of offense, they can bury their opponents quickly with one of the most dynamic offensive attacks in basketball.
While the identity of the players for Duke have changed, their on-court identity has not and that poses a serious issue for them defensively in this matchup. They still lack at guarding the perimeter, giving up threes at an alarming rate. North Carolina is well equipped to take advantage of this with Caleb Love and RJ Davis manning the perimeter. It’s been a cold stretch for Caleb Love early on, but he is more than capable of bouncing back at a moment’s notice.
Growing up, Caleb Love dreamed of going to Duke and playing for Coach K. But he was never offered a scholarship.
Tonight, Caleb Love hit the biggest shot of his career, sending UNC to the championship game and ending Coach K’s career.
WHAT. A. WORLD.pic.twitter.com/ubg9CsQ6G3
— 24/7 High School Hoops (@247HSHoops) April 3, 2022
Should UNC connect at a high rate from the perimeter then this would stretch out Duke’s defense and allow more open cuts to the basket. This will be crucial as forcing Duke’s Kyle Filipowski to navigate him away from the rim and getting him in no man’s land will spell doom for the Blue Devils interior defense. Armando Bacot is one of the best interior scorers in the nation, being more than capable of finding the opening and getting easy looks at the rim.
North Carolina Vs. Duke Key Matchups
Can North Carolina’s interior defense play at a high enough rate to limit Kyle Filipowski scoring?
North Carolina interior defense vs Kyle Filipowski
North Carolina’s ability to limit Duke’s scoring will be the key metric to watch for our Tar Heel spread tickets as their defense has been a thorn in their own side all season long. A brunt of the Blue Devils scoring output comes from star big man Kyle Filipowski who averages 15.8 points per game.
Bacot will be at a slight size disadvantage, but he has improved as an on-ball defender and Filipowski tends to play more of a stretch big. Forcing Filipowski into low quality shots will be crucial as North Carolina will have the rebounding edge to limit second chance looks.
Duke also plays at a snail’s pace, ranking 269th in Adjusted Tempo per Kenpom. This negates North Carolina’s biggest defensive weakness, limiting transitional scoring opportunities.
Take North Carolina at the number in what is a crucial game for their last season momentum building. Their lack of motivation should be negated by the rivalry aspect, locking them in for the full 40 minutes in what will be another thrilling installment into this historic matchup.