North Carolina Tarheels vs. Duke Blue Devils Preview and Pick

No. 3 North Carolina Tarheels (21-2) -1.5 at No. 6 Duke Blue Devils (20-3) +1.5 157 O/U
Cameron Indoor Stadium, Durham, N.C., 9:00PM Eastern, Wednesday

By Jay Horne of

One of the biggest and most highly anticipated match-ups every year is the rivalry games between North Carolina and Duke. The No. 3 ranked North Carolina Tarheels will take the eight mile trip up Tobacco Road to battle nemesis No. 6 ranked Duke on Wednesday night. The game marks the biggest rivalry in college basketball between two of the most successful schools in NCAA history. The Carolina-Duke rivalry is among the most hated and grueling battles in sports fueled by some bloodshed in 2006 these annual meetings have become the premier highlight game for college basketball fans around the country. The Duke Blue Devils have had a bumpy road over the last week since getting knocked off the number 1 spot in America, but they will get to host the Tarheels inside Cameroon Indoor in front of the Cameron Crazies where they have not lost all season on the big stage Wednesday night.

The number 3 ranked North Carolina Tarheels are riding a wave of momentum heading into the battle with Duke on a 7 game winning streak. The Tarheels were two games behind in the ACC only a week or more ago, but with two losses from Duke the two teams are in a tie for first place in the conference. North Carolina leads the ACC in scoring while ranking 2nd nationally with 92.3 points per contest. However, the Tarheels will go up against the best defense the ACC has to offer when they try and tackle Coach Ks Blue Devils defense. North Carolina also leads a jam packed group of ACC schools that fill 4 out of the 5 top teams in America as the best rebounding team with 42.9 boards per game. The Tarheels will attempt to seek all of these impressive statistical advantages on Wednesday night in Durham.

The Duke Blue Devils appeared to be clearly the best team in the nation a matter of two weeks ago, but how things have changed since. Duke got knocked off the top spot by Wake Forest and then turn around two games later to receive one of the biggest blowout losses in the Coach K Era with a score of 74-47 by Clemson. The Blue Devils continued to struggle in their last outing against unranked Miami only scoring 19 points in the first half from a team that is averaging 80 for a game. However Gerald Henderson led the Blue Devils to a comeback and they would edge out the Hurricanes in overtime 78-75. Duke will have to score more points the entire game if they plan on keeping up with the Tarheels on their home floor Wednesday night and get back to their winning ways.

North Carolina will have a pretty sizeable advantage in the backcourt from standout guards Ty Lawson and Wayne Ellington. Lawson the junior gave up the opportunity to turn pro last year and is averaging a solid 15 points per game. However, Ellington has been a bit the surprise and the breakout player for the North Carolina offense this season as he has also posted 15 points per game. Ellington has posted a 21 point average over the last 6 games during the 7 game winning streak and has really given the Tarheels a boost. Add to the fact former National Player of the Year Tyler Hansbrough controls the inside game, and you quickly realize will many quickly claim this is the most talented team in America. North Carolina will try to exploit the mismatches Wednesday night as they attempt to take down the Blue Devils on their own floor.

Duke has found an emerging playmaker as well in junior Gerald Henderson. Henderson has nearly passed Kyle Singler who has led the team in scoring all season as both players are now averaging 15 points per game. Henderson has been compared to have the style of play similar to former Duke great Grant Hill. Henderson will need to put together a huge performance similar to many of Hills earlier days this Wednesday night to take down North Carolina. Singler will also need to have a big performance, but it will be the Duke guards who will really need to step up. The Blue Devils Nolan Smith and Greg Paulus will have their hands full against the North Carolina backcourt and their success on Wednesday night will play a really big factor for Dukes chances to win.

Betting Trends
North Carolina has won the last 4 out of 5 meetings in the rivalry. Even though North Carolina leads the all-time series at 128-97, the two schools are tied at an even 32-32 when both schools are ranked in the top 25. The Tarheels have lost 4 of the last 6 games this season ATS while reaching the over total in 4 of the last 5. Duke has also lost 4 of their last 6 games ATS while reaching the under total in 5 of their past 6 games.

Jays Pick: The only way Duke stands a chance is if they slow the game down. I do not think they can get into a scoring contest with the Tarheels and I believe they understand this scenario very well. I would consider a play on the under 157.