Duke at North Carolina

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North Carolina (25-5 straight up, 18-10-2 against the spread) is as hot as any team in the nation right now and hopes to sweep the season series from Duke and win next week’s ACC Tournament to perhaps become a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

These teams will renew the most bitter rivalry in college basketball on Saturday night in Chapel Hill at 6:00 p.m. Eastern on ESPN. William Hill opened UNC as a three-point home favorites, while a few books had the total at 166 early Friday evening.

When these teams first met at Cameron Indoor Stadium on Feb. 20, North Carolina jumped Duke early and often on its way to an 88-72 win as a 10-point underdog, hooking up money-line backers with a payout in the +375 neighborhood. The 160 combined points dipped ‘under’ the 165.5-point total.

UNC senior power forward Luke Maye was the catalyst in Durham, producing 30 points, 15 rebounds, two assists and two steals while making 14-of-24 field-goal attempts. Cameron Johnson hit 11-of-17 shots from the field in a 26-point effort. Johnson also had seven rebounds, two steals and four assists without a turnover. Garrison Brooks added 14 points and eight rebounds, knocking down 6-of-7 FGAs.

In the losing effort, R.J. Barrett had 33 points, 13 rebounds and four assists for the Blue Devils, who lost star Zion Williamson to a sprained knee in the first minute of the game. Cam Reddish finished with 27 points.

Since losing 69-61 to Virginia as a one-point home ‘chalk’ on Feb. 11, Roy Williams’s squad has won six consecutive games while going 4-2 ATS. UNC is off a 79-66 win at Boston College as an 11-point road favorite. The 145 combined points dropped ‘under’ the 158-point total.

North Carolina raced out to a 48-25 halftime lead at BC. Johnson led the way with 22 points, 12 rebounds, one blocked shot and five assists compared to only one turnover. Maye added 17 points, 20 boards, five assists and one block. Colby White contributed 11 points, while Kenny Williams had 10 points, four rebounds and four assists without a turnover. Nassir Little finished with 10 points and seven boards.

UNC is 13-2 SU and 7-6 ATS at home this year, while Duke is 7-1 SU and 5-3 ATS in eight road assignments.

North Carolina is ranked third in the nation in scoring with its 86.8 points-per-game average. On the flip side, the Tar Heels are ranked No. 227 in the country in scoring ‘D,’ allowing opponents to average 73.1 PPG.

Johnson paces UNC in scoring (16.9 PPG), steals (1.3 SPG) and 3-point accuracy (47.9%). White averages 16.2 points, 4.1 assists and 1.0 steals per game, while Maye averages a double-double (14.9 PPG, 10.3 RPG). Williams (8.6 PPG) has a 110/46 assist-to-turnover ratio.

Duke (26-4 SU, 17-13 ATS) will most likely be without Williamson for a fifth straight game (or sixth if you want to count the UNC game) since he went down with a sprained knee in the opening minute of a home loss to UNC on Feb. 20. Williamson (21.6 PPG) averages team-bests in rebounding (8.8 RPG), field-goal percentage (68.3%), steals (2.2 SPG) and blocked shots (1.8 BPG).

Williamson is officially listed as ‘doubtful’ but following Duke’s win over Wake Forest a few nights ago, Mike Krzyzewski said that he doubted Williamson would play against UNC but “would be surprised if he wasn’t ready for the ACC Tournament.”

Since Williamson’s injury, Duke is 3-2 SU and 2-3 ATS (but that’s counting the home loss vs. UNC) and the ‘under’ has gone 4-1. The other loss during this stretch came at Va. Tech (77-72) on Feb. 26. The Blue Devils rebounded with an 87-57 win over Miami this past Saturday as 14.5-point home favorites.

Barrett was the catalyst with 19 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists, while Reddish contributed 19 points, seven rebounds, four assists, one steal and one blocked shot. Marques Bolden finished with 15 points and 10 boards against the Hurricanes.

On Tuesday at home, Duke was favored by 24.5 points over Wake Forest. The South Point sports book in Las Vegas listed the Demon Deacons with 40/1 odds on the money line. Danny Manning’s team led by as many as 10 points early in the second half and stayed in the game until the final second.

However, Chaundee Brown’s six-foot jumper in the paint at the buzzer rimmed out, allowing Duke to win a 71-70 decision. The Blue Devils made only 16-of-26 free-throw attempts (61.5%), but Wake shot at a worse percentage from the charity stripe and had more than twice as fewer attempts (7-of-12 for 58.3%).

Barrett played all 40 minutes vs. Wake, scoring 28 points to go with five rebounds, four assists and two blocked shots. However, the freshman sensation coughed up seven turnovers. Reddish went 2-of-9 on FGAs and scored only six points. Reddish had three turnovers and zero assists. Tre Jones was in double figures with 13 points, eight rebounds, three steals and three assists compared to just one turnover.

Duke is 2-0 both SU and ATS in a pair of underdog spots earlier this year. Mike Krzyzewski’s club drilled Kentucky 118-84 as a 2.5-point ‘dog in the season opener. The Blue Devils also went to Charlottesville as 2.5-point ‘dogs and won 81-71 on Feb. 9.

Duke is ranked seventh in the country with its 84.6 PPG average. However, the Blue Devils are a terrible 3-point shooting team, ranking No. 325 out of 351 Division-I schools with their 30.9 percent accuracy. Duke is ranked fifth in the nation at defending the 3-point line, forcing opponents to make merely 28.7 percent of their treys. The Blue Devils are 15th nationally in FG-percentage ‘D’ (39.5%).

Barrett leads Duke in scoring (23.3 PPG) and averages 7.4 rebounds and 4.2 APG. Reddish (14.0 PPG) is the team’s third-leading scorer, but he has more turnovers (79) than assists (61) and makes only 33.6 percent of his 3-pointers. Jones, the freshman point guard, averages 8.7 PPG and has a 146/39 assist-to-turnover ratio.

The ‘under’ is 20-8-1 overall for the Blue Devils, 5-2-1 in their road contests.

The ‘under’ is 16-14-2 overall for the Tar Heels, but they’ve seen the ‘over’ hit at an 8-7 clip in their home contests.

UNC has prevailed both SU and ATS in three of the past four meetings against Duke.

**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**

-- The ‘under’ has cashed in four straight Duke-UNC games. Also, Duke is 9-3-1 ATS in its last 12 trips to Chapel Hill. The road team is 18-7-1 ATS in the past 26 games of this Tobacco Road Rivalry.

-- LSU sent out a press release shortly after lunch on Friday announcing the suspension of Will Wade, who according to Yahoo Sports report, is heard on FBI wiretaps discussing payment amounts with Christian Dawkins to multiple players, including LSU freshman Ja’Vonte Smart, a Top-50 recruit out of Baton Rouge. Wade has been subpoenaed along with Arizona head coach Sean Miller to appear in one of the college corruption trials scheduled in April. Tony Benford has been named LSU’s acting interim head coach. The Tigers host Vandy with a chance to clinch the SEC regular-season championship and No. 1 seed in next week’s SEC Tournament in Nashville with a win. There’s been no word yet on the status of Smart, who averages 11.5 points per game. During LSU's current four-game winning streak, Smart has scored 29, 17, 19 and 15 points. Let’s just hope this doesn’t result in a repeat of what happened to Georgia under Jim Harrick in 2003 when the school removed its team from the SEC and NCAA Tournaments voluntarily.

-- Loyal readers know how much space I’ve used ripping UGA, Dr. Michael Adams and former AD Vince Dooley for that unfathomable decision that forever altered the career of senior Ezra Williams and was a gross overreaction that was completely unfair to those UGA players. Let’s not allow the AD who hired Wade and has been monitoring this situation for months off the hook here, either. His name is Joe Alleva, who was the AD at Duke during the lacrosse scandal who fired that coach who had won multiple national titles and done nothing wrong (nor had his players). Alleva was also the LSU AD who had plans to fire Les Miles after the 2016 home regular-season finale vs. Texas A&M. However, due to the week-long backlash from the fan base, Alleva was ordered by high-ranking boosters to stand down and retain Miles in the second half of that win over the Aggies.

-- Finally, it was also Alleva who gave Florida a deadline of Wednesday night to switch UF’s home game vs. LSU in 2016 to Baton Rouge due to a hurricane that was going to hit Florida that weekend. When UF refused (because, after all, meteorologists have never been wrong about forecasts 72 hours in advance, right?!), Alleva went to great lengths to push a narrative that the Gators were trying to get out of the game (never mind that LSU was the biggest home game of the year and all of UF’s top recruiting targets were scheduled to visit Gainesville that weekend) in some sort of chicken-(mess) fashion. As it turned out, the game was re-scheduled to be played in Baton Rouge later that season. Alas, the Gators won on an epic goal-line stand to win a nail-biter and garner a trip to Atlanta as the SEC East champions. Furthermore, LSU had play back-to-back road games at UF in ’17 and ’18.

-- With Alabama losing at home to Auburn, Florida falling to LSU in overtime in Gainesville and Ole Miss coming up short vs. Kentucky in Oxford earlier this week, there are now three SEC teams on the bubble. According to Joe Lunardi’s latest edition of ‘Bracketology’ filed to ESPN.com on Friday morning, five SEC teams are seeded sixth or better, including Auburn, Mississippi State, Tennessee, LSU and Kentucky. However, Ole Miss is seeded 10th, Florida 11th and Alabama is in a First Four game in Dayton against Clemson.

-- Kentucky’s Reid Travis (knee) is ‘questionable’ to make his return to the lineup Saturday vs. Florida. Travis has missed several games with a knee injury. After global shops opened the Wildcats as 12-point home ‘chalk’ vs. UF, William Hill sent out UK as -10. The global shops then got in line behind William Hill and adjusted to 10 with a total of 128.5 points. UF is in its richest underdog spot of the year. The Gators are 6-4 ATS on the road and have seen the ‘under’ go 8-2 in those games. The ‘under’ would be 9-1 in UF’s 10 road assignments if its game at LSU had not gone to overtime. UK is 16-1 SU and 9-8 ATS at home.

-- Iowa State guard Marial Shayok is ‘questionable’ for Saturday’s home game vs. Texas Tech. Shayok is dealing with a foot injury. He has averaged 18.7 points and 5.2 rebounds in 29 games played this season.

-- Miami’s game at Virginia Tech was just tipping off as I filed this column to VegasInsider.com. Nevertheless, it was plenty news worthy that Hokies’ star Justin Robinson was upgraded to ‘probable’ just before tip in Blacksburg. Robinson has been out for about a month with a foot injury. In his team’s first 20 games, Robinson averaged 14.4 points, 5.4 assists, 3.4 rebounds and 1.6 steals per game.

-- Georgia, a six-point underdog at South Carolina, will be without sophomore forward Rayshaun Hammonds against the Gamecocks and in next week’s SEC Tournament in Nashville. Hammonds injured his foot a couple of weeks ago. He was averaging 12.1 points and 6.1 RPG for the Bulldogs, who are 5-1 ATS in their last six contests.

-- Ole Miss is a pick ‘em at Missouri. The Rebels are 5-5 SU and 8-2 ATS in 10 road games, while the Tigers are 9-6 SU and 8-6-1 ATS at home. This is a 3:30 p.m. Eastern tip in the SEC Network.

-- The ‘under’ is 22-8 overall for Arkansas, 13-4 in its home games. The Razorbacks host Alabama at 6:00 p.m. Eastern on the SEC Network. As of early Friday night, most books had Mike Anderson’s team installed as a 3.5-point home ‘chalk’ with a total of 146. The Hogs are 11-6 SU and 6-11 ATS at home. They just snapped a six-game losing streak last Saturday with a 74-73 home win over Ole Miss, and then added another victory with Wednesday’s 84-48 triumph at Vanderbilt. Alabama is mired in a 1-6 ATS slump and is off back-to-back home losses to LSU and Auburn.

-- Lew Stallworth, The Citadel’s star player, was ruled ineligible just before the start of his team’s Southern Conference Tournament first-round showdown versus Samford on Friday night. Stallworth had played in 29 games, averaging 20.2 points, 6.2 assists, 5.3 rebounds and 1.0 steals per game.

Follow Brian Edwards' sports gambling opinions on Twitter at @vegasbedwards.