The leader in sports broadcasting has been pimping this matchup for two weeks calling it the greatest rivalry in college basketball. For the first time in close to a decade neither Duke nor North Carolina are a projected No #1 seed heading into the second week of February. In truth only Duke can bolster their current March Madness status and that will take a tobacco road win on Dean E. Smith Center court tonight. ACC Free Pick of the Week: Blue Devils vs Tar Heels.
In all fairness to both ACC squads the parity in college basketball this season is ridiculous. Evidence of the statement was provided more proof last night when top ranked Villanova, as well, Purdue and Virginia, either lost or attempted in conference matchups. The trio had combined for a grand total of four losses against 67 wins heading into action on Wednesday night with only Virginia holding on for a “W”.
Jay Wright’s Nova squad fell 79-75 to St John’s at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia. The Red Storm were 0-11 in league play before last night’s victory. Matt Painter and his Boilermakers were riding a school record 19-game win streak and owned the top scoring margin in Division I basketball. In the past 20 years only five teams have outscored opponents by at least 20 points per game and all five reached the Elite Eight. Keita Bates-Diop got a tip-in with 2.8 seconds left to lift No #14 Ohio State to a 64-63 comeback win over No #3 Purdue on Wednesday night in Big Ten action at West Lafayette, Indiana.
Virginia had to muster a rally from a double-digit halftime deficit Wednesday to win its 15th consecutive game, defeating Florida State 59-55 at the Donald L. Tucker Center in Tallahassee, Florida.
Duke and North Carolina (-1, 164.5) take the Dean Smith hardwood for an 8:00 p.m. ET tip in Chapel Hill tonight with most of the basketball world watching. Eighth-ranked Duke squares off against twenty-first rated North Carolina in the school’s 246th all-time meeting.
Duke has dropped two of its last three while the Tar Heels ended a three-game losing streak Saturday by defeating the leagues bottom dwelling Pittsburgh Panthers.
The Blue Devils have struggled to value possessions in their last three games averaging over 15 turnovers over per contest. As has been the case the entire season Coach K’s crew has struggled defensively allowing over 72 points per game. Guard Grayson Allen continues to be pedestrian in his senior season. The shooting guard was a mere 1-for-7 from the field and managing just seven points in the loss to St. John’s on Saturday.
The Tar Heels can matchup with the Devils in the frontcourt. Junior forward Luke Maye tops the team in scoring with nearly 19 ppg. The defense of the Heels’ backcourt is the Achilles of Roys’ Boyz. The group, including senior guard Joel Berry II, have been porous with the ball pressure on the perimeter this season.
Duke was a significant preseason favorite to win the Big Dance once top prospect Marvin Bagley III reclassified to enroll in college. But it has become crystal clear that there is little special about the 2017-18 Duke chemistry.
North Carolina can body up in the paint tonight versus Bagley and company but scoring at the rim has been a struggle for the Tar Heels this season. As mentioned it is the Heels’ perimeter defense that is the primary variable in the teams seven losses this season. North Carolina is holding opponents to 44 percent shooting on 2-point shots which ranks eighth among major-conference clubs. However UNC has allowed nearly 39 percent shooting from beyond the arc this season. This ranks them 73rd out of 75 major college crews this year.
Both teams will be fired up for tonight heavily promoted event and both squads will live up to their strengths and weaknesses resulting in an exciting and high scoring contest.
ACC Free Pick of the Week: Blue Devils vs Tar Heels
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