North Carolina Tar Heels vs Duke Blue Devils
North Carolina vs Duke in the Final Four? Are you serious? Do we really need to get you fired up for this one? Television rating records figure to be in danger when Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski faces North Carolina for the final time. This feels like something in a Hollywood script with the No. 1 rival standing between Krzyzewski and a chance to play for one more national title.
When thinking about the Duke vs. North Carolina prediction, the first thing that comes to mind is the classic one-word quote from Mr. T in the Rocky III movie when he was asked for a prediction of his upcoming fight with Rocky Balboa.
“Pain” was the response — and that would be the best word to describe this one. The teams know each other so well and this will not be for the faint of heart. Bodies will be flying, elbows will be thrown and the two blue-blood programs will be ready to roll in the first meeting between the teams in the NCAA Tournament.
Let’s repeat that. Either Duke or North Carolina has played in 22 of the last 34 Final Fours, but the teams have never played each other in the NCAA Tournament.
Duke (+155) is the favorite to win the national title while North Carolina comes in at +475, the worst of the four remaining teams.
The game is set for Saturday at 8:49 p.m. ET and will air on TBS.
Keep on reading for more on this much-anticipated showdown in the national semifinals, including information to help make North Carolina vs. Duke betting predictions.
North Carolina vs Duke Game Information
Team records: North Carolina 28-9; Duke 32-6
Coaches: North Carolina – Hubert Davis, first season; Duke – Mike Krzyzewski 42nd season
Seeds: North Carolina No. 8 seed in East Region; Duke No. 2 seed in West Region
NCAA bid: North Carolina and Duke both received at-large bids.
NCAA appearances: North Carolina 52nd appearance; Duke 44th appearance
Final Four appearances: North Carolina is making its 21st trip to the Final Four; Duke will be making its 17th appearance in the Final Four.
Best finish: North Carolina won the national title in 1957, 1982, 1993, 2005, 2009 and 2017; Duke won the national title in 1991, 1992, 2001, 2010 and 2015.
When North Carolina is on Offense
When the ball goes up on the rim, it won’t be hard to find 6-foot-10 junior Armando Bacot, who is coming off a 22-rebound effort in a win over Saint Peter’s in the Elite Eight. After missing some shots in the first two games of the tournament, Bacot is shooting 56 percent over the last two games. He is averaging 16.5 points and 15.8 rebounds in four March Madness games. Bacot also has 10 assists and seven blocked shots in the tournament.
The all-sophomore backcourt of Caleb Love and R.J. Davis can be a little streaky when it comes to shooting and creating their own shots. Love has 53 points on 41 percent shooting in wins over Marquette and UCLA, and 19 points on 30 percent shooting against Baylor and Saint Peter’s. Davis went off for 30 points in the upset of defending national champion Baylor as he was 5 of 10 on 3-pointers and 9 of 10 on foul shots. He followed that up by going 5 of 22 from the field in the next two games. If the two of them have it going at the same time, it will be hard to beat this team.
Brady Manek never got past the second round in three March Madness appearances with Oklahoma. The 6-foot-9 senior is making up for lost time, averaging 21.5 points in four tournament games this season. Manek has 16 3-pointers on 47 percent shooting in the tournament. If he hits an early shot or two, watch out.
North Carolina went with a six-player rotation in the regional final and sometimes will have seven players in the main rotation, but this is not a very deep team, especially since losing Dawson Garcia and Anthony Harris.
When Duke is on Offense
Three of Duke’s five double-digit scorers are freshmen and it will be interesting to see how they handle their first Final Four experience.
There haven’t been any noticeable March Madness jitters for Paolo Banchero (18.5 points, 7.0 rebounds, 3.8 assists in the NCAA Tournament) and A.J. Griffin (11.5 points, 4.8 rebounds) although Trevor Keels is just 2 of 10 from 3-point range in the tourney.
None of Duke’s top six scorers had played in the NCAA Tournament before this season, but that hasn’t stopped the Blue Devils from advancing to the Final Four for the first time in seven years.
Duke has trailed in each of the last three games so the lack of March Madness experience hasn’t caught up to the Blue Devils.
The Duke players have done an admirable job of dealing with the pressure of sending out retiring head coach Krzyzewski the right way, but emotions will be at an all-time high when Atlantic Coast Conference rival North Carolina tries to send Duke packing.
Three Keys to North Carolina vs Duke
1. Keeping emotions in check: If these teams played a pickup game in July, the heartbeats would be racing and there would be an extra bounce in each of the steps of the Tar Heels and Blue Devils. One can only imagine what the emotions will be like when the rivals meet in the NCAA Tournament for the first time. One player picking up a couple early fouls or a team digging itself an early hole could be devastating.
2. Crying foul: North Carolina has shot 22 more free throws than Duke in the NCAA Tournament thanks in large part to Bacot heading to the line 33 times. If it comes down to making free throws down the stretch, the North Carolina vs. Duke predictions could trend in favor of the Blue Devils, who are shooting 86 percent from the line in the tournament. Neither team uses a ton of players, so foul trouble is a concern for both squads.
3. Box out or head home: Duke is -11 in offensive rebounds in the NCAA Tournament while North Carolina is +10. Bacot and Manek have combined for 31 offensive rebounds in the tournament. If Duke allows the North Carolina forwards to play volleyball at the rim, it will be hard for the Blue Devils to give Krzyzewski one last chance to win a national title.
At first glance, it might be shocking that these two teams have never met in the NCAA Tournament. However, is it really that surprising? There was a time when only one team per conference played in the tournament. When the March Madness bracket expanded, conference rivals usually were kept out of the same region whenever possible.
If North Carolina had beaten Kansas in the 1991 national semifinals, there would have been a Duke-North Carolina championship game.
North Carolina has won three of the last four meetings, including a 13-point win on March 5 in the final regular-season game of Krzyzewski’s incredible coaching career. Four of the last five meetings have been decided by double digits.
Betting Numbers to Know
The North Carolina vs Duke prediction will not be an easy one. The Blue Devils have the motivation of playing for their retiring head coach and memories of a humbling home loss to the Tar Heels in the most recent meeting.
Each of the last six Duke-North Carolina games has gone over the total while the Tar Heels are 8-2 against the college basketball point spreads in the last 10 games against the Blue Devils.
North Carolina has covered in eight of its last nine games while Duke has covered in five of the last six games played in the month of April.
Seventeen of the last 19 North Carolina vs Duke games featured totals over 150 and the national semifinal is no different with a number of 151.
Duke as a four-point favorite according to the college basketball point spread certainly catches the eyes of those who bet online. It will be the 10th time in the last 12 meetings in this classic rivalry when Duke is favored. North Carolina has covered in six of the last eight games when Duke is the betting favorite.