We are putting together a nice little week as we have won four out of our last five bets. We picked up another win last night when we backed the Maryland Terrapins as seven-point home favorites against the Minnesota Golden Gophers. The number seemed a little bit high as the Gophers have lost many of their conference games in close affairs, but I had a feeling this would be a bit of a classic letdown game for Minnesota as they were fresh off of winning their biggest game of the year over Purdue.
And that is exactly what happened. The Gophers came out slowly, and Maryland was able to build up a double-digit lead quickly. Maryland hit halftime with a twelve-point lead and ran it up to as many twenty in the second half. Minnesota finished strong to close the gap to single-digits before all was said and done, but our cover was never in doubt, and we picked up the win.
The win helped stop the bleeding for Maryland as the Terps had lost three out of their last five games. Not many people are talking about Maryland on a national level, and while I don’t think this is a Final Four caliber squad, I do think that they are going to be a threat to make the second weekend of the tournament. For Minnesota, a win would have slid them into the lock category for the tournament, but even with the loss, this is a team that should hear their names called on Selection Sunday. For today’s pick, I will head to the ACC for the showdown between Duke and North Carolina.
The North Carolina Tar Heels are looking for the season sweep of their hated rivals, the Duke Blue Devils, tonight. The Heels knocked off Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium a couple of weeks ago in a game marred by the fact that Duke superstar Zion Williamson played just one minute of action as he sprained his knee early in the game. Zion has been ruled out for this game as well as the Heels look to win the ACC regular season title and make a case for a one seed in the tournament. The Tar Heels are -4.5-point home favorites. The game total over-under is set at 164.5 points. Tipoff is scheduled for 3:00 PM PST from the Dean Smith Center in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
Coming into this season, the Tar Heels were on my very short list of Final Four caliber teams. Along with Duke, Gonzaga, and Kansas, the Tar Heels seemed to stick out from the rest of the pack. They have three elite seniors, and some elite young guys sprinkled in as well. They are uber-experienced, and they have one of the best coaches in the country. All signs pointed to this team being one of the absolute best this season.
After a bit of a slow start that saw them lose three of their first eleven games, this team has been on fire. The Heels have rampaged their way through the ACC, with wins over Duke, Virginia Tech, Louisville, Florida State, Syracuse, and Clemson. They have lost just one game in their last fourteen, and that was against a Virginia team ranked second in the nation, nearly two months ago. This team is peaking at the right time, and they look every bit like a national title contender.
We all know the story with Duke this year. They came into the season with what appeared to be the greatest recruiting class in history, and at several times during the season, they have looked unbeatable. Like when they beat the Kentucky Wildcats by thirty-eight points. Or when they handed Virginia both of their two losses on the year, the second of which they won by double-digits. When healthy, this is the best team in America, and not many people are going to even attempt to argue the other side of that.
But unfortunately for Duke, they aren’t healthy. Zion Williamson hasn’t played since getting hurt against Carolina three weeks ago, and this team just doesn’t look the same without him. Since losing Zion, they got blown out by North Carolina by sixteen points at home. They played a very competitive game against Syracuse, picking up a hard-fought win in the Carrier Dome. Then they turned around and lost at Virginia Tech, and then needed a miracle comeback to not lose to an awful Wake Forrest team at home, eventually sneaking past the Demon Deacons by just one point.
To highlight the difference between how this team looked with Zion and then without him, you can look at the Wake Forrest series. With Zion, Duke blew out Wake on their home court by twenty-two points, and Williamson dropped a 30-10-5-4 slash. Without him, they trailed the entire game and needed a strong finish to avoid the upset.
I’ll be honest here. As a fan, I hate that Zion isn’t playing. This is the best rivalry in the sport, and I badly want to see what this game looks like with both teams at full power. But as a sports bettor, I have no choice but to take advantage of the Blue Devils struggles without Zion on the floor. Normally, in this rivalry, if you just take the points and back the underdogs, you are in great shape. Very rarely are these games ever decided by more than a point or two.
But tonight, things are different. We saw that when this line opened up at North Carolina -3-points and all the sharps hammered it and it now sits at North Carolina -4.5-points. I suspect that this line will continue to move towards Carolina as Duke just doesn’t seem to be on the level of the Tar Heels right now. I almost can’t believe that I am laying this much wood in a game like this, but right now the play is to back North Carolina. Give me the North Carolina Tar Heels laying -4.5-points tonight from the Dean Dome!