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Duke Blue Devils vs. North Carolina Tar Heels Preview and Pick

NCAA Basketball Duke Blue Devils (19-4, 14-8 ATS) vs. North Carolina Tar Heels (13-10, 7-14 ATS), The Dean Dome, Chapel Hill, Wednesday, Feb. 10th, 9 PM Eastern, ESPN
By Z-Man of Predictem.com

Point Spread: Dukies -6/Heels +6
Over/under: 155.5

Duke-North Carolina is always a big game, and often matches two top-10 teams. But the defending champion Tar Heels are going through some growing pains this season, and they may not even get a chance to defend their tournament title. So they could really use a win when they hook up with the Blue Devils Wednesday night in Chapel Hill.

As of Wednesday morning most online sportsbooks were listing Duke as a 6-point road favorite for Wednesday's game, with a total of 155.5.

The Dukies are also listed at around -260 on various Vegas moneylines, with North Carolina getting upwards of +230 as home underdogs.

Duke returned three starters this season, and was fully expected to make a run at the ACC title. And they started out 13-1 through their non-conference slate, picking up wins over Arizona State, Connecticut and Gonzaga, and a loss at Wisconsin. The Blue Devils then started 3-2 in ACC play, losing at Georgia Tech and at NC State. But after gutting out a 66-63 win at Boston College Saturday, they've won four straight conference games (sandwiched around a non-con loss at Georgetown).

Carolina won the national title last year, but they lost four starters coming into this season. Still, most experts thought they had enough raw talent to at least contend in the ACC, and they started 11-3 this season, with victories over Ohio State and Michigan State, and losses to Syracuse, Kentucky and Texas. But this conference season has gone sour for the Heels, as they've lost three games in a row and six of their last seven. And NC hasn't just been getting beat; they've been getting bounced. They lost by 19 at Clemson, 13 at home to Wake Forest, 15 at home to Virginia, and by 21 at Maryland Sunday, 92-71. The Tar Heels shot just 38% from the floor vs. the Terps while allowing them to shoot 52%.

The best thing you can say about Carolina at the moment is that perhaps they've hit bottom, and things can't get any worse.

So at 7-2 in conference play the Dukies lead the ACC by a half-game over second-place Maryland, while Carolina is in big trouble in 10th place at 2-6.

On the season Duke is shooting 46% from the floor, 39% from 3-point range and 76% from the free-throw line. The Dukies are also holding opponents to 41% FG shooting and are outrebounding foes by seven per game.

North Carolina this season is shooting 47% from the field, 36% from long range and 67% from the line. At the other end the Heels are limiting opponents to 42% FG shooting and are outrebounding foes by 8.5 per game.

The big difference, though, is that the Blue Devils are holding opponents to 63 PPG, while Carolina is giving up 74 PPG.

Last year, on their way to the ACC regular-season title and the national championship, North Carolina swept two games from Duke by scores of 101-87 and 79-71. The first game went over its posted total of 155, while the second stayed under its total of 165.

So far this season Duke is just 24 straight up and 15 ATS on the road. Meanwhile, Carolina is 11-3 straight up but only 4-8 ATS at home.

These two teams meet again in their regular-season finales March 6 in Durham.

The Dukies are 11-11 on the totals this season, as their games have averaged 144 points. Carolina is 7-11 on the totals, even as their games have averaged a healthy 154 points.

Sagarin's PREDICTOR rankings at USAToday.com rate the Blue Devils at +12.4 over the Tar Heels. Factoring in Sagarin's updated CBB home-court advantage figure of 4.0, and Duke is favored 8 1/2 over UNC for Wednesday's game on the Sagarin line.

Ryno's Pick: Much is being made about UNC being in a rebuilding year and how they're not as good this year. Duke isn't exactly killing it on the road this year either though. UNC is getting zero respect here as a +6 home dog. Take the Tar Heels who should come out fired up to win this one straight up.

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