UNC vs. Duke prediction and game preview. The Tar Heels continue to push for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament , while the Blue Devils look for the season sweep against their hated rivals.
UNC vs. Duke Game Preview
When: Saturday, March 4 – 8:15 p.m. ET
Where: Dean E. Smith Center, Chapel Hill, NC
TV Broadcast: ESPN
Roy Williams and the No. 5 Tar Heels (25-6, 13-4 ACC) are coming off the lowest-scoring game for the team in Williams’ 14 years as UNC head coach, not to mention the program’s lowest overall total since 1979. UNC, which was averaging 86.2 points per contest, scored just four points in the game’s last 9:26 against the stout Virginia defense in a 53-43 loss in Charlottesville. The Cavaliers controlled the tempo, which was the exact opposite of what happened in the previous meeting between the two teams.
Meanwhile, Mike Krzyzewski and the No. 17 Blue Devils (23-7, 11-6) need to find a way to keep freshman guard Frank Jackson in the starting lineup. One game after a strong effort at Miami, Jackson scored a season-best 22 points in a 75-70 win over Florida State on Tuesday night. It was a big effort, especially with Grayson Allen playing just 16 minutes because of a left ankle injury. Allen finished with a season-low two points on 1-of-3 shooting.
These two teams last met on Feb. 10 in Durham, when Allen channeled his inner 2015-16 self and freshman Jayson Tatum dominated inside throughout the second half. Allen scored 25 points, while Tatum added all 19 of his points in the second half in an 86-78 Blue Devils win.
UNC Wins If …
… The Tar Heels are balanced offensively. Junior stars Justin Jackson and Joel Berry II finished with 21 points and 15 points, respectively, in the loss to Duke earlier this season. But senior forward Kennedy Meeks was below his season average. The veteran needs to provide an inside scoring presence along with Tony Bradley, Theo Pinson and Isaiah Hicks, who missed the first meeting. There’s no question that UNC has to dominate inside against the smaller Blue Devils.
Additionally, Carolina shot only 4-of-12 from downtown and struggled from the free throw line late in the second half when these teams met earlier in the year in Durham. That sloppiness must be cleaned up or else Williams and Co. will lose their sixth game in their last seven meetings with their rivals.
Duke Wins If …
… The Blue Devils are on fire from three-point range like they were in the first meeting. Duke made 13-of-27 attempts from downtown, which was the difference in the game. Allen made seven of those 13 treys in one of his better performances of the year. While his outside game will be needed, he also needs to be aggressive driving to the lane. If he’s not 100 percent, though, that could limit his playmaking ability. If that’s the case, connecting from outside will be vital.
Duke’s highly touted freshmen have had their ups and downs and battled a bit of adversity throughout the season, but the class had a big impact in the earlier win over the Tar Heels. Tatum looked like a star, Jackson chipped in 11 points and Harry Giles went 3-of-3 from the field in the win. Similar production is needed to sweep UNC.
Matchup To Watch
UNC frontcourt vs. Duke frontcourt
UNC is used to dominating the offensive boards and feasting on second-chance points. That didn’t happen against Duke in the first meeting. UNC had just seven offensive rebounds, while Duke was able to pull down 24 defensive boards. Overall, the Blue Devils outrebounded the Tar Heels, 31-30. It did not help the Heels’ cause that Hicks missed the contest due to injury. Maybe the script will flip, as Duke’s Amile Jefferson isn’t 100 percent. UNC’s Meeks also needs to be more of a presence than he was in the first contest. Keep an eye on how long Coach K is able to stay with his small lineup. Tatum is a mismatch because he can draw UNC’s big men to the perimeter, but UNC’s overall length will be tough for the Blue Devils to handle, especially in Chapel Hill.
UNC vs. Duke Betting Odds
Spread: North Carolina -6
Over/Under: No line as of post
UNC vs. Duke Prediction
Before the Blue Devils’ latest win in the series, these two teams had split the last 96 meetings with the exact same number of points. So expect another tight battle. Ultimately, UNC is the healthier team. Allen and Luke Kennard will be able to connect on some long-range shots, but UNC’s interior presence is the difference. The Tar Heels continue on their march toward a potential No. 1 seed with the win.
UNC vs. Duke final score prediction: UNC 76, Duke 70