Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 9:59 AM
North Carolina at Duke
Editor’s Note: Brian Edwards is on a 24-14 run (63.2%, +11.6 Units!) in college hoops since Feb. 6 Brian’s guaranteed plays are on a 13-6 roll (68.4%, +6.43 Units!) since Jan. 24, so don’t miss out on his pay-if-it-wins-only selection for tonight! Also, you can get signed up right here for his weekly package or go ahead and purchase his NCAA Tournament pack!
Every college basketball fan will tell you that the best rivalry in the sport is the one along Tobacco Road. It pits Duke and North Carolina, two schools separated by merely eight miles from Chapel Hill to Durham.
They collide at least twice each year, adding memories to the bitter saga one 40-minute war at a time. In Michael Jordan’s final home game, it took two overtimes and a Matt Doherty buzzer beater to end regulation for UNC to emerge with a 96-83 win (we’re left to assume that was a Brutally Bad Beat for Duke backers as healthy underdogs, but – we’re guessing here – we doubt the Blue Devils were catching more than 12.5 points).
The vitriol between Dean Smith and Mike Krzyzewski probably peaked in 1989 after the Tar Heels beat Duke 77-74 in overtime in the ACC Tournament finals. Duke fans had chanted “J.R. Can’t Read” during the game. Afterwards, Smith told the media that Reid’s SAT scores were better than both Danny Ferry’s and Christian Laettner’s.
Even in Duke’s worst season of Coach K’s tenure, the 1994-95 campaign when he bolted on the team during Cherokee Parks’s senior year to rest his lingering back issues, UNC still needed overtime to win at Duke after Jeff Capel (the Capel brother that played for the Blue Devils, not Jason who went to UNC) hit a leaning buzzer beater from just inside half-court to force the extra session.
More recently, we’ve seen Austin Rivers’s epic buzzer-beating trey at UNC to cap a rally from a 10-point deficit with 2:09 remaining. If there’s a picture in my mind that most accurately depicts the passion and intensity of Duke-UNC, it’s that of Tyler ‘Psycho T’ Hansbrough’s wild reaction (and thirst to deal out immediate eye dots!) after noticing blood all over his face after taking a cheap-shot elbow in the final minute of a Carolina blowout win.
You want NCAA Tournament intensity in a regular-season game? That’s exactly what you’ll get tonight when these schools square off in Durham.
As of early this morning, most betting shops had Duke (23-2 straight up, 15-10 against the spread) installed as a nine-point home favorite with a total of 165.5. The Tar Heels were +375 on the money line (risk $100 to win $375).
Krzyzewski’s team has won 13 of its 14 home games while posting an 8-6 spread record. This is only Duke’s second game as a single-digit home favorite (assuming the line doesn’t move North later today). In the first such instance, the Blue Devils held off a late surge from Virginia to win 72-70, only to see the Cavaliers take the cash in backdoor fashion as 3.5-point road underdogs. Duke has been a single-digit ‘chalk’ only five times this season, limping to a 1-4 spread record.
Since losing 95-91 to Syracuse in overtime on Jan. 14 as a 17.5-point home favorite, Duke has ripped off nine consecutive wins while going 5-4 ATS. This stretch includes a pair of wins over UVA, including an 81-71 victory as a 2.5-point road underdog in Charlottesville on Feb. 9. R.J. Barrett dropped 26 points on the Cavs by burying 6-of-10 greys. He also had seven rebounds and three assists.
Zion Williamson produced 18 points, five rebounds, five assists, three steals and three blocked shots. The other two freshmen that compose a quartet of rookies – one that might be the best college basketball has ever seen – were also in double figures. Cam Reddish contributed 17 points, three steals, three blocked shots, two rebounds and three assists without a turnover. Tre Jones finished with 13 points, seven assists, six boards and a pair of steals.
Three days after handing UVA just its second loss of the season – with both L’s obviously coming against the Blue Devils – Duke was predictably flat at Louisville. But when I think of flat, I think about coming out lacking fire and passing for about…oh, I’d say the first 10 minutes of the first half. We probably need to think of a different word (or words) to describe Duke’s first 30 minutes at the KFC YUM! Center last Tuesday.
Lackluster doesn’t do it justice. Let’s just say Duke was downright getting its ass beat by the Cardinals. In every way possible. With 8:30 remaining, U of L led 59-36 and this game appeared to be a wrap. In fact, I changed the channel to monitor my play on Mississippi State -5.5 vs. Alabama on the SEC Network.
Don’t get me wrong – I love watching Duke taking a pimpslap! But I’d been doing that for over an hour. Hell, if not for noticing a few tweets from KellyinVegas (as noted in last Wednesday’s rant, she had a three-team money-line parlay that was going to pay better than 76/1 odds if U of L could prevail like LSU had done at Kentucky and Penn St. had done at home vs. Michigan earlier in the night), I might not have found out about Duke’s epic rally until the next morning.
After hitting just 2 of its first 17 shots, Duke caught fire and made nine of its next 13. Louisville suffered a total meltdown, going ice cold shooting and committing a slew of turnovers, 13 in total for the second half. Reddish heated up from downtown and Williamson brushed off foul trouble to get to the free-throw line and make 8-of-9 attempts.
When Reddish buried a 3-ball with 1:28 remaining, the score was suddenly tied. He would make a pair of FTAs to put the Blue Devils up two with 14 ticks left. Then Duke put the clamps on defensively, forcing a contested shot that was off the mark as time expired. U of L fans filed out of the building perplexed at what they’d just witnessed – a 71-69 loss. The Cardinals did take the cash, however, as 7.5-point home underdogs.
Duke returned home this past Saturday and knocked off North Carolina State by a 94-78 score. The final was the Blue Devils’ biggest lead and wasn’t enough for their backers as 17-point home favorites. Williamson made 12-of-16 field-goal attempts and scored a game-high 32 points to go with six rebounds and three steals. Barrett recorded a triple-double with 23 points, 11 boards and 10 assists without a turnover.
With Tennessee losing at Kentucky this past Saturday night, Duke returned to the No. 1 spot in the national polls. The Blue Devils are also atop the NCAA’s new NET rankings and at KenPom.com. They’re 10-2 against K-Pom Top-50 opponents, including victories over Kentucky (#5), Auburn (#16) and Texas Tech (#9) on neutral courts. They also won at FSU (#19) on a buzzer beater by Reddish.
Duke is ranked fourth in the nation in scoring with its 86.4 points-per-game average. The Blue Devils are 19th in FG percentage, hitting 48.6 percent of their attempts. They struggle from long distance, however, ranking No. 317 nationally (31.3%).
At the other end of the court, Duke is ranked 12th in the country in FG-percentage defense (39.2%) and 17th at defending the 3-point line (29.7%).
Barrett is Duke’s top scorer with his 22.7 PPG average. He also averages 7.4 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 0.9 steals per game. Williamson (22.4 PPG) leads the Blue Devils in rebounding (9.2 RPG), FG percentage (68.3%) and steals (2.3 SPG), while Reddish is averaging 13.8 PPG. Jones (8.7 PPG) has a stellar 124/27 assist-to-turnover ratio and averages 1.9 SPG.
North Carolina (20-5 SU, 15-8-2 ATS) has been dynamite on the road all season, compiling an 8-1 record both SU and ATS. The Tar Heels are 1-1 both SU and ATS in two previous games as underdogs. They won 90-82 at N.C. State as 1.5-point ‘dogs and lost 84-67 at Michigan when they were catching 3.5 points.
Roy Williams’s squad saw its seven-game winning streak and 5-2 ATS run halted last Monday night in a 69-61 loss to Virginia as a one-point home favorite. However, UNC responded this past Saturday by going into Winston-Salem and demolishing Wake Forest by a 95-57 count as a 16.5-point road ‘chalk.’
Senior Cameron Johnson torched the Demon Deacons with 27 points on 10-of-13 shooting from the field and 7-of-10 marksmanship from long distance. Senior power forward Luke Maye added 10 points, seven rebounds and three blocked shots, while true freshman guard Colby White finished with 10 points, six assists, five rebounds and three steals.
Johnson is the catalyst for UNC, averaging team-bests in scoring (16.3 PPG) and steals (1.4 SPG). Johnson (5.4 RPG) has drained 47.9 percent of his launches from 3-point range. Maye averages 14.5 PPG and paces the Tar Heels in rebounding (9.6 RPG) and blocked shots (0.6 BPG). White is scoring at a 15.7 PPG clip and has dished out a team-high 4.2 APG.
North Carolina is ranked second in the nation with its 87.5 PPG average. The Tar Heels are No. 21 in the country in 3-point accuracy (38.6%).
UNC is No. 9 in latest NET rankings and No. 8 at K-Pom. The Tar Heels have two home losses to Louisville and UVA, two neutral-court setbacks to Kentucky and Texas, in addition to the L in Ann Arbor. They’re 6-5 against K-Pom Top-50 foes and 11-5 against the Top 100. UNC’s most notable victory is a home scalp of Gonzaga by a 103-90 score in Chapel Hill back on Dec. 15.
For our purposes, UNC has been a money maker at Cameron Indoor Stadium over the past two decades (just not the last two seasons). The Tar Heels are 15-6 ATS in their last 21 trips to play Duke in Durham.
These adversaries have met three times in each of the past two seasons. UNC won two of three last seasons, including an 82-78 victory as a 1.5-point home favorite and a 74-69 triumph as a four-point underdog at the ACC Tournament. When they squared off at Duke, the Blue Devils won a 74-64 decision to cover the 7.5-point ‘chalk’ number.
Two seasons ago, Duke won at home (86-78) and at the ACC Tournament (93-83). Meanwhile, UNC won in Chapel Hill by a 90-83 score, but it was a push as a seven-point home favorite.
The ‘under’ is 16-7-2 overall for the Blue Devils, 9-4-1 in their home games. They’ve watched the ‘under’ go 6-2 in their past eight outings.
The ‘under’ is 13-12-2 overall for UNC, 6-3 in its nine road assignments. This rivalry has seen the ‘under’ cash at a 5-2-1 rate in the past eight head-to-head meetings.
ESPN will have the broadcast at 9:00 p.m. Eastern.
B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets
-- As of early this morning, LSU was listed as a six-point home favorite vs. Florida in tonight’s SEC showdown at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center in Redstick. The total was 140 points. The Gators ended a 0-7 ATS slide with Saturday’s 71-53 win at Alabama as three-point road underdogs. The ‘under’ has cashed in five straight for UF and is 7-1 in its eight road assignments. Mike White’s team has six games remaining, including a trip to Rupp Arena to face Kentucky and two matchups with LSU. In Joe Lunardi’s latest ‘Bracketology’ report filed to ESPN.com on Tuesday morning, the Gators were a part of his Last Four In and were set to face Temple in the First Four in Dayton. The Tigers, who Lunardi currently has as a No. 4 seed in the NCAA Tourney, have won 12 of 13 home games but are only 6-7 ATS in Baton Rouge. They’re 14-1 SU in their past 15 games and 9-3 ATS in their last 12 contests. Tip-off is scheduled for ESPN2 at 7:00 p.m. Eastern.
-- Marquette’s Sam Hauser is ‘questionable’ for tonight’s home game vs. Butler due to an eye injury. Hauser averages 15.3 points, 6.8 rebounds and 2.3 APG. The Golden Eagles were favored by six as of early this morning. This is a 9:00 p.m. Eastern tip on the CBS Sports Network.
-- UMass guard Luwane Pipkins has been upgraded to ‘probable’ for tonight’s game against George Washington despite a lingering hamstring issue. Lipkins averages 16.8 points, 5.4 assists, 5.1 rebounds and 1.3 SPG for the Minutemen.
-- If you missed it this past weekend, Mississippi State suspended sophomore guard Nick Weatherspoon indefinitely for a violation of team rules. The news was announced in a press release by the school just hours before the Bulldogs picked up a crucial win at Arkansas on Saturday night. MSU head coach Ben Howland has been pushed about the status of Weatherspoon by local reporters all week, but he’s only responded by referencing the school’s statement in the press release. According to a VegasInsider.com source, the suspension is expected to be a season-ender. Weatherspoon was averaging 9.6 points, 2.8 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.3 steals per game. As of early this morning, Mississippi State was a 6.5-point road favorite for tonight’s game at Stegeman Coliseum against Georgia. ESPN2 will provide the telecast at 6:30 p.m. Eastern.
-- Michigan State suffered a crucial loss this past weekend as well, although there’s hope that center Nick Ward will be back for the NCAA Tournament and perhaps even a tad earlier. Ward suffered a hairline fracture in his hand during Sunday’s 62-44 home win over Ohio State. Ward averages 15.1 points, 6.6 rebounds and 1.4 blocked shots per game for the Spartans, who are 12-1 SU and 10-3 ATS at home this season. They host Rutgers tonight at 6:30 p.m. Eastern on the Big Ten Network. As of early this morning, Tom Izzo’s team was favored by 16.5 points with the total at 136.5. RU is off a gut-wrenching loss at home vs. Iowa on Saturday night when the Hawkeyes got a buzzer-beating shot from the corner that…hit the backboard first! Ouch. The Scarlet Knights are 6-4 ATS in 10 road assignments.
-- Bettors should take note of a third early 6:30 Eastern tip on tonight’s board: Villanova at Georgetown on Fox Sports 1. As of early this morning, the Wildcats were favored by 5.5 points. They’re in bounce-back mode after allowing a big lead to get away in Sunday’s night’s loss to St. John’s at MSG in NYC.
-- Syracuse will host Louisville on ESPN at 7:00 p.m. Eastern. U of L bounced back from its unfathomable loss to Duke by edging Clemson by one at home on Saturday. However, the Cardinals nearly allowed another late lead to get away. Up by four with 3.5 seconds left, the Tigers hit a trey to trim the deficit to one. Then U of L threw the inbounds pass right to a Clemson player in the lane who took it to the rim only to get rejected. Whoa! I can’t even imagine how Chris Mack would’ve reacted if the Tigers had stolen that one. The ‘Cuse (17-8 SU, 14-11 ATS) is 8-4 in ACC action and has had an entire week to shake off last Wednesday’s 68-53 loss at N.C. State. The Orange is 10-4 both SU and ATS in its past 14 games. Louisville has been solid on the road, posting a 5-3 SU record and a 6-2 ATS mark. As of early this morning, Jim Boeheim’s squad was a two-point home favorite.
-- Penn State improved to 4-0-1 ATS in its past five games with last night’s 95-71 win over Nebraska as a three-point home ‘chalk.’ The Cornhuskers fell to 1-9 ATS in their last 10 contests. They had seen the ‘under’ cash at a 6-1 clip in their seven previous games until last night’s 166 combined points soared ‘over’ the 129-point tally. Tim Miles’s job is probably on the line during his team’s four-game gauntlet to conclude the regular season: vs. Purdue, at Michigan, at Michigan State and vs. Iowa.
-- PSU isn’t the only Big Ten team in a down season that’s cashing tickets here down the stretch of the regular season. Check out this Illinois squad that’s 5-2 both SU and ATS in its past seven games. The two non-covers came by 4.5 combined points, and the Illini won outright vs. Michigan State as a 10.5-point home ‘dog and beat Ohio State 63-56 as a 7.5-point road puppy. They led for much of the game Monday before losing 64-58 (but covering comfortably as a 9.5-point ‘dog) at Wisconsin.
-- Let’s give you another team that’s been awful for most of the season but has found life recently. We’re talking about Washington State, which hosts Colorado tonight at 10:00 p.m. Eastern on the Pac-12 Network. The Cougars, who are 10-15 SU, swept the Arizona schools with two road wins in three days two weekends ago. They went into Tempe and smashed Arizona State 91-70 as 15-point road underdogs before thumping Arizona 69-55 as 11.5-point road pups. Then this past Saturday night, WSU took on in-state rival and league-leading Washington in Pullman. Ernie Kent’s club led the Huskies 45-36 at intermission, only to end up losing 72-70. That won’t help Kent’s hopes of retaining his job, but Washington State backers weren’t complaining with the easy spread cover as a 7.5-point home underdog. The Cougars were four-point home underdogs to the Buffaloes as of early this morning. Let me throw out an early Coaching Carousel thought here: Assuming Kent gets pink slipped at the end of the season, Washington State should target Boise State’s Leon Rice to be its next head basketball coach.
-- LAST CALLS! Nevada (-7.5 or 8) at San Diego State (11:00 p.m. on the CBS Sports Network) and New Mexico at Utah State (-13.5; on ESPNU at 11:00).
Follow Brian Edwards' sports gambling opinions on Twitter at @vegasbedwards.