NO. 9 DUKE (19-4, 6-2 ACC) AT NO. 5 NORTH CAROLINA (20-3, 7-1 ACC)
Time/TV: 9 p.m./ESPN
Location: Dean Smith Center in Chapel Hill, N.C.
Duke 5 (No. 1 ACC)
North Carolina 7 (No. 2 ACC)
Line: North Carolina -6 (O/U 157)
Duke Players to Watch: F Ryan Kelly, 6-11 Jr. (12.6 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 45.3% 3s); G Austin Rivers, 6-4 Fr. (14.5 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 2 apg); F Mason Plumlee, 6-10 Jr. (11.6 ppg, 9.7 rpg, 59.2% FG). Kelly leads the ACC in 3-point shooting, connecting on 29-of-64 from deep. He’s 10th in free throw shooting (80.0), 10th in block shots (1.1), 19th in scoring and 19th in rebounds.
North Carolina Players to Watch: F John Henson, 6-11 Jr. (14.3 ppg, 10 rpg, 3.2 bpg); F Tyler Zeller, 7-0 Sr. (15.3 ppg, 9.6 rpg, 55.2% FG); G Kendall Marshall, 6-4 So. (6.5 ppg, 9.8 apg; 1.4 spg). Henson leads the ACC and is 25th in the nation in rebounding. He also ranks first in the conference and eighth in America with 3.2 blocks per contest.
Storylines: Of course, the biggest story is that it’s Duke-Carolina – one of the handful of rivalries that is meaningful no matter what the records are. And, as usual, the Atlantic Coast Conference regular-season championship could be determined by the Tar Heels’ and Blue Devils’ head-to-head matchups. UNC is tied on top of the ACC with Florida State at 7-1 with the Blue Devils a half-game back after Sunday’s stunning 78-74 overtime home loss to Miami. Duke or Carolina has won 36 of the last 58 regular-season ACC championships.
Keys: North Carolina leads the all-time series with Duke, 131-101 and has won seven of the last 11 meetings between the rivals. The Tar Heels are 60-32 against Duke in Chapel Hill. Wednesday’s game marks the 32nd time in the last 65 meetings that the Tar Heels and Blue Devils are both ranked in the top-10 of the AP poll. Duke has won four of the last five meetings, including a 75-58 win over UNC in last year’s ACC Tournament championship game. They have also won eight of their last 13 trips to Chapel Hill. Duke has a plus-14.6 scoring margin in their last 14 games following a loss. The Heels are 23-4 in their last 27 ACC games. When the first game between Duke and North Carolina has been played at Chapel Hill, Duke is 4-0 on the road during the Roy Williams era. North Carolina leads the nation with an average of 84.1 points per game this season. They score an ACC-best 76.6 points per game in league play. Duke is second at 75.2 and leads the conference at 48.2 percent from the field (UNC is second at 47). The Devils have a league-best 39.3 3-point percentage. Carolina is fourth at 35.8 percent. The Heels have one of the best rebounding teams in the country. They lead the ACC with 46.3 boards per game and have a plus-11.6 rebounding margin. Duke is sixth in the ACC in rebounding margin at plus-2.9 and averages 36 rebounds each night. At 6.3 blocks per game, UNC leads the ACC and is seventh in the country. Led by Marshall’s ACC-best 9.8 assists per game, the Tar Heels lead the ACC and are fourth nationally with 18.2 assists per game. Duke is third in the ACC at 13.3. UNC leads the conference with a 1.4-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio and they are second with a 1.7-to-1 turnover margin. Both teams are poor free throw shooting teams, but especially UNC. The Tar Heels are an ACC-worst 65.1 percent from the charity stripe. The Blue Devils are 4-2 in true road games this season and they are 9-2 in games away from home. They are 4-0 in ACC road games. North Carolina 14-0 in Chapel Hill this season.
The Bottom Line: Yes, it’s a rivalry so anything can happen, but North Carolina is simply much better than the Blue Devils at this point.
The Pick: North Carolina 88, Duke 75
Greg Against the Spread This Season: 57-34