#20 Duke (19-6, 8-4) at #5 North Carolina (21-4, 10-2)
When: Wednesday, February 17th 2016
Where: Dean Smith Center, Chapel Hill, NC
Time: 9:00 ET | TV: ESPN
The Duke Blue Devils and North Carolina Tar Heels continue their historic rivalry when the two teams meet on Wednesday night in Chapel Hill. The Blue Devils hit a tough stretch in January where they lost four of five and fell out of the top 25 polls and had some wondering if they would even make the Tournament. Three weeks later, Duke has reeled off four straight victories including two against ranked opponents and are back in the top 25. With six games left, the Blue Devils have a shot at the ACC regular season title, but a big challenge awaits them Wednesday. Duke is two games behind the Tar Heels with two meetings left with them. Duke will have a tough road test at Louisville this weekend, but have three winnable games after that. Saturday’s 63-62 win over Virginia came on a dramatic buzzer-beater by leading scorer Grayson Allen (20.6). The sophomore was held to 15 points and 0-for-4 from three-point range, but picked up 7 boards and 7 assists to help his team beat the Cavaliers. Freshman Brandon Ingram has been helping Duke’s resurgence up the conference ladder as well, averaging 19.2 points and 8.5 rebounds in the last six games. Duke has won three straight in this series and 10 of the last 13.
If the Tar Heels want to win the ACC, they’ll have to play their best over the next two weeks as three of their next four opponents are in the top-half of the standings. After consecutive road losses at Louisville and Notre Dame, the Tar Heels have bounced back to win two straight including an 85-64 home victory over Pittsburgh on Sunday. North Carolina was efficient in the victory, dishing out 26 assists on 32 made field goals and had five different scorers in double figures led by Brice Johnson’s 19. The Tar Heels are ranked ninth in the country in points per game (83.8) and 21st in field goal percentage (48.3). Outside shooting is not their strength as they shoot just 31.6% from beyond the arc (303rd). Justin Jackson (12.1 points) failed to score in double figures in six of eight games before breaking out of the slump in the last two. Jackson went 9-of-11 from the field as North Carolina pulled out a 68-65 win at Boston College on February 9th and scored 14 more against Pittsburgh on Sunday. North Carolina is a perfect 13-0 at home this season, but just 6-7 against the spread.
Duke is flying high right now and they’ve owned the Tar Heels the last few years. I’m taking the points in this one.
Pick: Duke +6.5