DUKE BLUE DEVILS (26-4)
at NORTH CAROLINA TAR HEELS (22-8)
Dean E. Smith Center – Chapel Hill, NC
Tip-off: Saturday, 9:00 p.m. ET
Line: North Carolina -2, Total: 152
Tobacco Road rivals No. 3 Duke and North Carolina will finish the regular season against each other at the Dean Dome in Chapel Hill Saturday night.
Since Duke beat the Tar Heels 73-68 at Cameron Indoor Stadium on Feb. 13, North Carolina has gone 6-0 SU and ATS. One of the key changes began in that game against the Blue Devils, going with a smaller lineup and starting P.J. Hairston, who is averaging 17.6 PPG in the past seven games since getting inserted into the starting lineup. Duke, however, is also improved from the first meeting with PF Ryan Kelly back in the fold after missing a 12-game stretch, including the win against the Tar Heels. Kelly has 27.0 PPG and 8.0 RPG in two games since returning from his injury. When these two teams met at the Dean Dome last year, the Blue Devils won on a last-second 3-pointer from the hands of Austin Rivers. Duke is 6-2 SU (4-4 ATS) in the past eight meetings between these rivals, but this year’s Blue Devils have really struggled on the road (4-4 SU, 2-6 ATS) and have yet to beat a team in the top-half of the ACC on the road. The Tar Heels meanwhile have dominated in the Dean Dome this year, going 14-1 SU and 10-3 ATS.
Which Tobacco Road rival will emerge victorious on Saturday? For the answer, connect to College Basketball Best Bets for all the Expert picks throughout the entire 2012-13 season. StatFox Gary remains hot with a 61% ATS mark (11-7) since Feb. 27 to improve to 54.4% ATS (98-82-4) for college basketball Best Bets this season. StatFox Dave is 55% ATS (11-9) since Feb. 28, and is now 52% ATS (157-148-5) for the season.
Senior PF Mason Plumlee (17.0 PPG, 10.2 RPG) led the Blue Devils past the Tar Heels at Cameron, finishing with 18 points and 11 boards. Plumlee, who is hitting 59% of his field goals this season, has struggled lately, averaging just 12.0 PPG and 5.7 RPG over his past three contests. The other star of that game for Duke was sophomore PG Quinn Cook (12.6 PPG, 5.3 APG), who added 18 points and four steals. SG Seth Curry (17.0 PPG), struggled, however, with just 11 points on 3-of-10 shooting, getting frustrated by North Carolina’s great size with their wing players. The one player who really needs to step up his play for Duke is freshman SG Rasheed Sulaimon (11.7 PPG), who is averaging just 5.3 PPG over his past three games. The biggest difference on this team though, between the first meeting is the return of PF Ryan Kelly (15.0 PPG, 5.7 RPG) who has been one of the best 3-point shooters in the nation, making two treys per game at a 53.1% clip. He also adds 1.6 BPG and should challenge the Tar Heels defensively with his size.
Hairston broke out in that first game against Duke, starting his second game of the season, going for 23 points and was one of three Tar Heels to add eight boards. North Carolina owned the offensive glass (18 offensive rebounds) against Duke, something that will be harder to replicate with Kelly back in action. PF James Michael McAdoo (14.6 PPG, 7.8 RPG) was one of the players to grab eight rebounds in that game, but scored just nine points. McAdoo has 15.6 PPG in his past five games. He and Reggie Bullock (14.4 PPG, 6.4 RPG) lead the Tar Heels offense. Bullock is averaging 18.3 PPG and 11.0 RPG in his past four games, incredible rebounding stats for a 6-foot-7 wing player. In the backcourt, UNC has two guards who have put the Tar Heels second in the nation in assists at 17.6 APG. SG Dexter Strickland (7.9 PPG, 4.1 APG) leads the ACC in assist-to-turnover ratio (3.39), coughing it up just 1.2 times per game. Freshman PG Marcus Paige (7.8 PPG, 4.5 APG) is also good at distributing the ball (1.85 Ast/TO ratio) and has come into his own with this new lineup. But he committed eight turnovers in Wednesday win at Maryland, something he can ill-afford to do Saturday against the No. 3 team in the country.