It was always going to be this way, wasn’t it? You just knew North Carolina’s win over Duke at Cameron Indoor in the last game of the regular season wouldn’t be Coach K’s last clash with the Tar Heels. Duke and North Carolina will renew their rivalry on Saturday night in New Orleans in Final Four action.
The Tar Heels escaped the East Region as a No. 8 seed, which is almost unheard of. Carolina is the first No. 8 seed since the 2014 Kentucky Wildcats to make it all the way to the Final Four.
This will be the third meeting of the season between the Blue Devils and Tar Heels. However, this will be just the second postseason meeting all-time between the longtime rivals, and their first-ever clash in the NCAA Tournament. The higher-seeded Duke squad is an early betting favorite, per the latest odds from BetOnline.
Duke Blue Devils
Of course, we can never be that surprised when Duke advances to the Final Four. This is the Blue Devils’ 13th trip to the Final Four during Coach K’s reign. It’s only right that they give the legendary coach a proper send-off in his final tournament. Five of the previous 12 Final Four runs resulted in national championships for Duke, most recently in 2015.
Duke then escaped an upstart Texas Tech side in the Sweet Sixteen. The Red Raiders were actually slight one-point favorites in that one, but Duke was able to pull off the upset. Then, in the Elite Eight, the Blue Devils’ hot shooting proved to be too much for a tired Arkansas defense to handle. Duke shot nearly 55 percent from the field and converted 16 of their 18 free throws en route to a 78-69 victory over the upset-minded Razorbacks.
Banchero put 23 points on the board the last time the Blue Devils faced the Tar Heels, but he was held to 13 points in the first meeting between the teams this season. Of course, Duke also won that game handily, 87-67, so Duke didn’t even need the freshman phenom to show out in that one.
They covered a small 3.5-point spread easily over North Carolina in Chapel Hill earlier this season, but obviously failed to cover as 11-point favorites in their straight-up loss to Carolina in the regular-season finale. The Blue Devils have covered in three of four NCAA Tournament games, including each of the last three. They failed to cover an 18-point spread in a 17-point win over Cal State Fullerton in the first round.
North Carolina Tar Heels
North Carolina finished a respectable 28-9 this season, but the selection committee wasn’t all that impressed. The Tar Heels bowed out of the ACC Tournament in just the second round with a 13-point upset loss to Virginia Tech. Of course, Virginia Tech also wound up beating Duke on their way to the conference tournament title, so perhaps that setback wasn’t as ugly as initially thought.
Regardless of their low seed, Hubert Davis has his team playing its best basketball of the season at the perfect time. Davis, who took over for the legendary Roy Williams this season, certainly looks like the right man for the job. The Tar Heels have won 10 of their last 11 games overall, including that shocking upset at Duke in the season finale.
Since the tournament started, Carolina has upended Marquette, Baylor, UCLA, and St. Peter’s. Dethroning Baylor in the second round was their most impressive feat to date, though they did need overtime to complete the feat after blowing a 25-point second-half lead. North Carolina made quick work of this year’s Cinderella, St. Peter’s, with a 20-point shellacking of the poor Peacocks in the Elite Eight.
Carolina is 20-16-1 ATS so far in 2021-22. That includes a string of four successive covers, with eight covers in their last nine games. The Tar Heels have won two games outright as betting underdogs to Baylor and UCLA in this tournament already. On the year, Carolina is 5-5-0 ATS as a betting underdog.
Duke Blue Devils vs. North Carolina Tar Heels March Madness Game Pick
Duke’s loss to North Carolina in the last game of the season was almost unfathomable, especially given all the pomp and circumstance surrounding Coach K’s final home game. Perhaps all of the distractions played a role. While there will be no shortage of hoopla surrounding Duke and North Carolina’s first NCAA Tournament head-to-head clash, I’d expect the Blue Devils to come into this one a little more ready and focused on the task at hand.
Since 1998, favorites in the Duke-UNC rivalry are 45-17 straight-up. However, favorites have only covered the spread in 45 percent of those contests. While I do think Duke ultimately exacts some revenge on the Tar Heels after the disastrous season finale, I think the Heels are good value to cover the 4.5-point spread in this one. Carolina winning the game outright wouldn’t be a massive surprise, either.
Take Carolina and the points on Saturday.
Duke Blue Devils vs. North Carolina Tar Heels Betting Recap
- Moneyline: Duke Blue Devils -184, North Carolina Tar Heels +164
- Point Spread: Duke Blue Devils -4.5 (-110), North Carolina Tar Heels +4.5 (-110)
- Over/Under: Over 151.5 points (-110), Under 151.5 points (-110)
- Pick: North Carolina Tar Heels +4.5 (-110)