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The game of all games. The greatest rivalry in the sport. Typically we would have done a Duke vs. Carolina preview on the podcast, but we will be back next week with a great ACC Tournament pod, and I will be in Greensboro, so stay tuned for that. Two words, Vegas knows. Every average basketball viewer will take Duke as a 3.5-point underdog against a Tar Heel team living on the bubble. Carolina will play desperate and play like their lives depend on it (because it does).
What can you guarantee about college basketball refs? They will always come back with a makeup call. UNC only shot three free throws at Cameron, and rightfully so; they were not penetrating; they were constantly taking jump shots in that game. This one will be different. I expect the Tar Heels to get a beneficial whistle in this one. This brings me to the keys to the game for both teams.
They need to get Dereck Lively in early foul trouble. Lively put the seatbelt on Armando Bacot last game and played world-class help defense. Duke loves pushing guards into the ACC’s best rim-protecting big. Secondly, and this one is the most important thing that must happen for the Tar Heels to win, Pete Nance or Caleb Love has to score 20+. It must also be an efficient 20; it cannot be a 23-point performance on a 6-23 shooting night. Carolina is an entirely different team when one of those two gets going; if neither of them steps up and has a big game, UNC will not win this game.
For Duke, forcing Carolina into tough shots is the biggest factor in this one. The Tar Heels have a tendency to settle for contested jump shots repeatedly. Duke needs to force them to do that once again. Duke has been playing the best basketball in the ACC as of late, now that they’re healthy. A few more things the Blue Devils have to avoid if they want to get the win in the Dean Dome.
Those things are much easier said than done, but it’s how they need to play if they want to win. Caleb Love has been the Duke killer, and do not expect anything different today. Duke must make enough three-pointers to open up the paint for Jeremy Roach to penetrate and have Kyle Filipowski go to work. Most importantly, they need to stay out of foul trouble. Dereck Lively is the most crucial piece for Duke in this game, and if he gets two early fouls, we see 20+ minutes of Ryan Young, hand UNC the win. The Tar Heels will be licking their chops whenever they see Ryan Young on the court. The Blue Devils need to limit how often Ryan Young is on the court in order to win this game.
We will see a very different Duke vs. UNC than the one we saw at Cameron. Both teams played pretty awful in that one; they can’t play much worse than they did. The spread for the game tells you everything you need to know. I’m picking UNC -3.5 and OVER 142.5. I firmly believe both teams will shoot dramatically better than they did at Cameron. I know you may be thinking this is an emotional hedge it is not, one team is desperate and needs this win. Vegas putting the spread at UNC -3.5 tells you everything you need to know.