In more hours, Duke will tip off against North Carolina for the 261st matchup in the history of the Tobacco Road Rivalry. It wouldn’t be a Blue Devils game without some can’t miss prop bets from the Blue Zone:
Duke (+3.5) vs. North Carolina
What is there to be said about this game that has not been said already; the two teams enter as the top dogs in the ACC, North Carolina looks like the better team on paper, but Duke is coming off one of its best performances of the year against Virginia Tech. None of that seems to matter, though, when these blue bloods take the court against each other. This game will come down to making shots, plain and simple.
Can the Blue Devils continue to shoot the ball well from deep, or will the Tar Heels’ stout perimeter defense — opponents shoot under 30% from beyond the arc against them — hold Duke’s shooters in check? On the other side of things, will Notre Dame transfer Cormac Ryan and freshman Elliot Cadeau — who shoot 30% and 19% from 3-point range, respectively — be able to knock anyone down themselves?
These questions will be at the center of Saturday’s game, and they truly could go either way. With that being said, North Carolina has more reliably shown the ability to weather the storm this season. The Blue Devils could not come back from cold shooting against Arkansas or Georgia Tech, and even stumbled to the finish line in some of their recent wins. While the Tar Heels suffered their own loss Tuesday at McCamish Pavilion against the Yellow Jackets, they have shown the ability to pull away from opponents with strong second halves. They were down five at half against Florida State and only led NC State by two midway through the second half, but eventually cruised to comfortable victories in both games. Therefore, look for Duke to keep things close most of the way, but for North Carolina to ultimately reclaim the rivalry in the Dean Dome.
Pick: North Carolina -3.5
Over/Under 150.5 total points
On the surface, this pick feels much easier, but it is also somewhat of a toss-up. Unlike many Tar Heel teams, which look to run up the score and turn the game into a track meet, this year’s squad is more defensively focused. Moreover, the Blue Devils play at a relatively slow pace — their 67.3 possessions per 40 minutes is in just the 47th percentile nationally (courtesy of cbb analytics). Finally, neither of last year’s meetings between the two teams went over 120 points, much less 150.5.
However, Duke and North Carolina are the top two scoring teams in the ACC. The Tar Heels will still look to get out in transition, and the Blue Devils do not turn the ball over that much. If both sides get hot, this score could run up in a hurry.
For this one, keep an eye on graduate center Armando Bacot — specifically on the offensive glass. If he is held in check, the under likely has a better chance of hitting; North Carolina will get fewer shots and Duke will in turn slow things down. I think this will be a main focus of sophomore center Kyle Filipowski and backup Ryan Young, and therefore think this game may turn into a rock fight.
Pick: Under 150.5 total points
Jared McCain 2.5 3-pointers made
The Blue Devils are 13-1 when McCain makes more than one 3-pointer, with the only loss coming at home against Pittsburgh when they were without both senior guard Jeremy Roach and sophomore forward Mark Mitchell. And on Saturday, McCain will likely be matched up against the Tar Heels’ third-best defensive guard. I know I picked North Carolina to win the game, but I still think this matchup favors McCain. He has shown the ability to make big shots throughout the season, and I think he will continue to do so against the Tar Heels. While I do not think his performance will be enough to push Duke over the edge, I think he will be essential in keeping the game close down the line.
Pick: Over 2.5 made 3-pointers
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| Assistant Blue Zone editor
Dom Fenoglio is a Trinity sophomore and an assistant Blue Zone editor of The Chronicle’s 119th volume.