Duke Blue Devils vs. North Carolina Tarheels Preview and Pick

Duke Blue Devils (19-1) +4, 163 O/U at North Carolina Tar Heels
(21-1) -4, 163 O/U, Dean Smith Center, Chapel Hill, N.C., 9 PM
Eastern, Wednesday

by Badger of Predictem.com

Duke versus North Carolina. No. 2 versus No. 3. The battle for
Tobacco Road. This game is so big, not much else needs to be said.
Plus, its the second half of ESPNs - Rivalry Week - doubleheader,
tipping off in the Dean Dome at 9 PM Eastern.

Typically this is the one game of the college basketball season
(well, two because they play twice a season) that lives up to all of
the hype. In past seasons it has lost some of its steam because the
Blue Devils have struggled to field a challenge to the Tar Heels. But
this season Duke is back, and ranked ahead of the powder blue of
North Carolina in the APs Top-25.

The big question coming into tonights tilt is whether or not North
Carolina guard Ty Lawson will be healthy enough to play. Lawson
turned an ankle in the Heels 83-73 victory over Florida State last
Saturday, and unless coach Roy Williams and the Carolina training
staff is playing a great game of opossum, Lawson will likely not be
able to play in the biggest game of the season so far.

Duke is on a roll coming into the game, cranking off nine straight
wins since their lone loss of the year, a 65-64 OT defeat to
Pittsburgh before Christmas. Since then the Blue Devils have steadily
climbed up the top-25 rankings to their present perch of No. 2, with
their 88-73 victory over Miami being their most recent example of how
far the Blue Devils have come this season.

Online betting sites have pegged the home Carolina Blue as a 4-point favorite,
with a total of 163. North Carolina is also favored on the moneyline,
sitting at a -180 with Duke sitting at a +160.

This game features two of the best offenses in all of the NCAA. North
Carolina sits 2nd in the country at 91 points per game, while Duke is
the 3rd best team at 85.7 points a contest. The two schools do it
with contrasting styles though.

North Carolina likes to get out in transition as much as possible,
and with power forward Tyler Hansbrough (21.8 ppg, 10.4 rpg), the
Heels have a great inside-outside combination to fall back on when
the running game is stopped. Senior Quentin Thomas will likely play a
lot of minutes to replace Lawson, but Thomas responded versus Florida
State with a career game of nine points and six assists.

Dukes offense is all about the guards and their slashing dribble-
drive penetration that opens up 3-point opportunities. Senior
DeMarcus Nelson is the undisputed leader of the Blue Devils (15.2
ppg, 5.9 rpg), but the Devils also have a few freshmen (namely Kyle
Singler and Taylor King) that are contributing beyond their years.

The key to tonights game, other than how North Carolina responds
without Lawson running the show, is how well Duke can handle the big
bodies the Tar Heels will throw at them down low. Hansbrough is not
only one of the best big men in the NCAA game, but the Heels also
have Deon Thompson (at 6-foot-8) and Alex Stepheson (at 6-foot-9) in
the middle, whereas the Blue Devils have just Lance Thomas (at 6-
foot-8) to matchup with all of them inside.

Also, North Carolina is the best rebounding team in the country with
an 11.9 rebounding margin (averaging 41.7 per game), so not only will
the size advantage take its toll on the offensive end, but it should
be able to limit second-chance opportunities on defense as well.

North Carolina has won three straight games in the rivalry, and four
of the last five. More importantly for bettor though, the Tar Heels
have covered the spread in four straight games (twice as faves, twice
as dogs) and the game has gone over the total in all four of those
games as well.

Both teams have been strong moneymakers this season, with North
Carolina sporting a 15-4 ATS record and Duke coming into tonights
game with a 12-6-1 ATS mark. Another betting trend that sticks out is
the fact that North Carolina is 25-7 ATS in their last 32 games in
the Dean Dome, while Duke is an unflattering 2-9 ATS in their last 11
games on hump day.

However, if recent history tells us anything it could be Dukes year.
In the past 13 head-to-head meetings in the rivalry, the underdog is
a cash-machine like 10-3 ATS.

Badgers Pick: Im going against the grain in this game.
Conventional wisdom says this game will be a high-scoring affair
since it features the second and third highest scoring offenses in
the land. Without Lawson the Heels will have a hard time getting the
ball inside to where they have the size advantage and the Blue
Devils will have a hard time getting as many good looks against said
size advantage as well. Take the under of 163.