Duke vs. UNC Prediction, Game Preview

    Duke vs. UNC prediction and game preview. The Blue Devils look to win their fourth straight game, while the Tar Heels look for their tenth victory in their last 11 tries.

    February 8, 2017

    Duke vs. UNC prediction and game preview. The Blue Devils look to win their fourth straight game, while the Tar Heels look for their tenth victory in their last 11 tries.

    Duke vs. UNC Game Preview

    When: Thursday, Feb. 9 – 8 p.m. ET
    Where: Cameron Indoor Stadium, Durham, NC
    TV Broadcast: ESPN

    The Blue Devils (18-5, 6-4 ACC) are coming off of a win at home against Pitt in Mike Krzyzewski’s first game on the Duke bench after about a month away from action following back surgery. Duke claimed a 72-64 win over Pitt last Saturday, using 18 second-half points from Grayson Allen to pace it to victory.

    Meanwhile, Roy Williams and the Tar Heels (21-4, 9-2) defeated Notre Dame in Greensboro last Sunday in a game that was postponed a day and relocated from Chapel Hill due to a water shortage. Justin Jackson paced the Tar Heels with 16 points in an 83-76 victory. The Tar Heels dominated inside, finishing with 40 points in the paint and holding a 44-25 rebounding advantage that led to 19 second-chance points.

    The best rivalry in college hoops returns for the 2016-17 edition, and it comes at a time when the sport gets to take center stage with college and pro football on the shelf.

    Duke Wins If …

    … The Blue Devils’ freshmen play well in a big spot. Sure, the game is in Durham, but this will be the first Duke-UNC tilt for Harry Giles and Jayson Tatum. So keeping their emotions in check will be critical. After three knee surgeries in two years, Giles has started to look more assertive as we head into the ACC’s stretch run. Meanwhile, Tatum was at his best in a recent win at Notre Dame. His inside scoring and rebounding were vital when Duke went with a smaller lineup.

    It will be interesting to see how often Duke can go small against the bigger Tar Heels, but Giles and Tatum need to continue their improved play against the best team in the ACC.

    UNC Wins If …

    … The Tar Heels have superior point guard play. There is no doubt that UNC has a significant advantage at the point, as Joel Berry II is as smooth as they come while Duke’s Allen is essentially playing out of position. Berry is averaging 14.9 points, 4.0 assists and 3.2 rebounds per game while also being an effective shooter (42.1 percent) from outside. Allen can outscore Berry, but that’s not the issue for Duke. When Berry’s on his ‘A’ game, the Heels’ offense is tough to stop. Because of Duke’s lack of a traditional PG, the offense can more easily ground to a halt and look out of sync.

    UNC has a distinct advantage on the boards. The Tar Heels lead the nation in rebound margin (plus 13.5), led by 6-foot-10 senior Kennedy Meeks and 6-foot-11 freshman Tony Bradley. Even 6-foot-6 junior swingman Theo Pinson can cause Duke problems if his ankle is healthy. The defender has missed the last three games with the issue but could be back for this one.

    Matchup To Watch

    Grayson Allen vs. Himself

    Over the last three games, the junior Allen has more closely resembled the preseason national player of the year that we thought we would see throughout the ’16-17 campaign. His body language is better, and his shot looks more sound mechanically. The toe injury, the suspension, Coach K being gone and the Blue Devils just overall being out of sync has contributed to an average year for Allen. But he is heating up at just the right time, as he has put up 20.3 points on 44.8 percent three-point shooting over the last three games. For the Blue Devils to beat UNC, he has to be their best player despite running the point, which isn’t his strength.

    Betting Odds

    Spread: Duke -1.5
    Over/Under: No line as of post

    Duke vs. UNC Prediction

    The Blue Devils are finally at full strength. They have dealt with injuries to Giles, Tatum and Marques Bolden, a suspension of Allen, Krzyzewski’s absence and a foot injury to senior center Amile Jefferson. This is a chance for Duke to show the nation that it warranted preseason national championship predictions. In yet another very good Duke-UNC showdown, the Blue Devils slip by the Tar Heels with a last-minute bucket by star sophomore guard Luke Kennard.

    Duke vs. UNC final score prediction: Duke 78, UNC 77

    MORE: Four-Star RB Jamal Elliott Attending Duke-UNC Game


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