NCAA Basketball Spread: North Carolina -7
There isn’t a better rivalry in all of college basketball. Coach K and the Blue Devils will make the short bus ride to Chapel Hill Wednesday night to take on the North Carolina Tar Heels. North Carolina was the overwhelming favorite to cut down the nets at the beginning of the season, but there have been plenty of bumps in the road along the way. Duke has lost two of their last three games at home, and fans are starting to question this team. Another installment of this passionate rivalry will take place on ESPN Wednesday night.
It’s been a long time since Duke lost two out of three home games. The Blue Devils dug a massive hole Sunday afternoon against Miami, but then rallied back to force overtime. Duke missed all six of its free throw attempts in overtime and the Hurricanes finished off the upset. This Duke team may be ranked number nine in the country, but unless they get their act together they won’t make it far in the NCAA Tournament. Duke is giving up 69.1 points per game. Six of the team’s last ten opponents have scored 73 points or more.
Offensively, Duke has been solid this season. Austin Rivers leads the team in scoring at 14.5 points per game. One area of concern is that Rivers has just 47 assists compared to 61 turnovers this season. Duke has plenty of outside shooters, and the team can really put up the points in bunches from beyond the arc. Seth Curry is the best pure shooter on the team, but Ryan Kelly and Andre Dawkins have been great this year as well.
North Carolina was expected to dominate this season, but it hasn’t gone exactly as planned. Still, the Tar Heels are in a good position to make a deep run in March if they can put together a full 40 minutes. North Carolina leads the nation in points per game at 84.1. They also lead the nation in offensive rebounding. John Henson grabs ten boards per game and Tyler Zeller averages 9.6 rebounds per contest. Those who were waiting on Harrison Barnes to step up have seen him do just that this season. Barnes leads the team in scoring at 17.3 points per game, and he is shooting 47.5% from the floor.
A frontcourt of Zeller and Henson makes the Tar Heels difficult to matchup with. Both of these big men can run the floor about the same way a guard does. The way North Carolina pushes the ball in transition is difficult to slow down. Kendall Marshall isn’t a scorer, but he is great at pushing the pace like Roy Williams asks him to. The Tar Heels athleticism and length helps them hold opponents to just 38.5% from the floor.
Expect plenty of energy in the gym for this one. The Tar Heels are the much better team and I expect them to pull away in the second half.
Free College Basketball Pick: North Carolina -7
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