March 7th 2015 (Posted at 11:00 AM ET)
The picks will be posted at noon (12:00 PM ET) tomorrow. Please note that with the exception of Arizona and Hawaii, clocks will be springing forward 1 hour on Sunday March 8th, for Daytime Saving Time.
Take North Carolina at -1.5 spread against Duke risking 3% of bankroll.
This rivalry is one of the most heated and anticipated rivalries in all of college basketball. For nearly 100 years, the third and fourth winningest programs in college basketball history have battled on Tobacco Road and have essentially setting the benchmark for what it means to be true rivals. Nearly every time these two teams square off, it turns into an instant classic and the first meeting this season was no different as Duke narrowly escaped Cameron Indoor Stadium with victory. Tonight the rivalry renews itself and we believe it will once again prove to be another one of those classic affairs.
Duke is no doubt an elite team in college basketball; there is no question about that. Year in and year out they are at or near the top of the rankings and at the moment they are playing undoubtedly at a championship level. Quinn Cook and Tyus Jones appear to be the best backcourt in the ACC. Justise Winslow is coming out of his early season shell and playing extremely well at the moment. Matt Jones has deservedly won his way into the starting lineup after his performance this season and Grayson Allen just threw himself in the national spotlight coming off an out of nowhere 27-point performance against Wake Forest. Not to mention they have a true superstar in Jahlil Okafor. There is no question Duke is one of the best in the country, however, with that being said, what do the Blue Devils really have to play for in this game? They have already won the first meeting in this series. They are currently locked into their Conference Tournament seeding. Even a loss here tonight and they are still essentially a No. 1 seed in the upcoming NCAA tournament. Other than this being just a rivalry game, Duke truly doesn’t have much from a motivational standpoint.
For UNC however, they have plenty to play for! They narrowly fell to Duke in the first meeting this season and have actually lost 2 straight in this rivalry. What has made this rivalry so special and intriguing is the stylistic matchup between these two teams. It’s not just the rival intensity that enables North Carolina to play so well against Duke; it’s also their style of play. Both the Tar Heels and the Blue Devils are teams that like to play fast and also in transition. Duke is one of the few teams that are happy to get out on the court and run with North Carolina, while the Heels are one of the few teams in the country who are even better at the running game than Duke. We saw this in the second half of the first meeting where North Carolina battled back and took a lead over Duke. Duke had no answers for the Heels' play in the open court. What is important to remember is that the faster the game becomes, the less of a factor Jahlil Okafor becomes for Duke which is likely to be a key part of Coach Roy Willams’ game plan tonight.
UNC also still has their eye on the No. 4 seed for the ACC tournament and that coveted double bye. A win by Virginia over Louisville this afternoon and then a win over Duke tonight and the Tar Heels will get that extra day of rest. Tonight is also Senior Night for the Heels as they play their final home game of the season so they will have that added emotional support of both the players and the fans to back them. Everyone saw what Duke was able to do to Wake Forest during their Senior Night on Wednesday.
Duke comes into this game banged up as they have five players who are all dealing with ankle injuries including standout Jahlil Okafor. Okafor didn't see many minutes in the blowout win over Wake forest to give him a chance to rest his ankle, so what's to prevent Coach K from limiting his minutes once again in this contest to preserve him for the upcoming tournaments? With this game having little meaning other than form a pride standpoint, Okafor would be much more beneficial in the upcoming tournaments when healthy, than potentially re-injuring himself tonight. Okafor was instrumental in the Devil's overtime win in the first meeting, however for the better part of the game, the Heels managed to contain him. If Okafor does see minutes in this contest, Carolina's game plan of going right at him will almost assuredly be repeated since they have the post players who can matchup up with him. Before he twisted his ankle in the first meeting, he was able to wiggle out of the double-team or find an open shooter. His injured ankle slowed down his ability to break the double which was why he was almost a non-factor in the second half.
The Tar Heels will also receive a boost to their lineup with Theo Pinson back in the rotation from his own injury. Pinson is a big guard who can run. He has the ability to get in the lane, split defenders and get the rim on the offensive end and also has quick hands and is a quality defenseman. He could prove to be a factor tonight. In the first meeting, Duke could not handle Carolina's fast break and was unable to match their ability to crash the boards. We don't believe much has changed since then. The Tar Heels had the first meeting wrapped up before a late game collapse and we believe they will take what they learned form that loss in Cameron and apply it here tonight at home in the Dean Smith Center. There is no question of which Carolina team shows up tonight. Duke on the other hand may come into this game a bit soft and we believe that will likely be the difference in the game.
Other notable facts to consider:
- UNC is 21-5 when listed as a favorite this season!
- Duke is just 48-76 ATS in March games since 1997.
- UNC is 8-2 SU & ATS after allowing 60 points or less this season!
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