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Blue Devils, Tar Heels Match Up in Key ACC Contest

Both Teams on Four-Game Win Streaks

The No. 9 Duke Blue Devils try to hold on to first place in the ACC when they take on the North Carolina Tar Heels in an Atlantic Coast Conference matchup on Saturday. The opening tip for this rivalry contest is scheduled for 6 p.m. ET at Dean E. Smith Center in Chapel Hill, NC.

The Blue Devils (18-3, 8-2 ACC) has won four in a row, including the last two straight on the road, capped by a win at Notre Dame on Monday. Duke is atop the league standings, leading three teams tied for second place by a half-game.

Leaky Black guarded by Wendell Moore Jr. Duke vs UNC Picks
Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images/AFP

North Carolina (16-6, 8-3) is also on a four-game winning streak, getting past the Louisville Cardinals in overtime in its last game on Tuesday. The Tar Heels are tied for second place in the ACC with the Fighting Irish and the Miami Hurricanes, with the Wake Forest Demon Deacons sitting just a half-game back in fifth place.

If you want to bet online on this contest, the college basketball lines have the Blue Devils as three-point favorites on the road, with the over/under set at 152 points. Betting on the moneyline will get you Duke at -150 and North Carolina at +130.

Playing Both Ends

The Blue Devils have the top scoring offense in the ACC, averaging 80.4 points per game, but they also rank in the top three in scoring defense, allowing just 64.7 points per contest. Duke is limiting opponents to just 39.9% shooting from the field, which leads the conference.

Offensively, it’s been freshman forward Paolo Banchero leading the way with 17.8 points per game as well as 8.3 rebounds per contest. Banchero just missed his fourth double-double in the last five games, finishing with 21 points and nine rebounds in the win over Notre Dame.

Wendell Moore Jr. has also been a dangerous player for the Blue Devils, averaging a career-best 14.2 points, 5.5 rebounds, 4.5 assists, and 1.5 steals per game. Moore runs the show for Duke but is also a threat to do some scoring of his own, hitting 40.3% from 3-point range this season.

Freshman guard Trevor Keels is due for a breakout game after struggling in his return to the lineup against Notre Dame. Keels returned from a leg injury that kept him sidelined since Jan. 18 and managed just three points in 26 minutes of action. Keels is averaging 11.4 points, 3.2 assists and 1.8 steals this season.

Rough Win

If the Tar Heels thought their most intense game this week would be against the rival Blue Devils, the Louisville contest is going to be hard to top. Technical fouls and officiating controversy marred the overtime victory for North Carolina, which also had an unruly crowd of Cardinals fans to deal with, but coach Hubert Davis felt it was a positive for the team to deal with going forward.

“It’s a great learning experience for our guys, things that we did well that moving forward, when we’re in this situation, we’ve got to continue to do,” Davis said about Tuesday’s win. “There were some things that we cannot do, and that we have to stay away from forever in late clock situations. I really felt like it’s a good learning experience for me, just to look at it and become a better coach.”

Amid all of that, Armando Bacot had a huge game, finishing with 19 points and a career-best 22 rebounds. Bacot will be a key against defending Banchero, but he’s also the Tar Heels’ leading scorer (16.5 points) and rebounder (12.5) and could get the freshman in foul trouble on the other end.

Sophomore guard Caleb Love is probably excited to see the Blue Devils on the schedule after he averaged 21.5 points and 7.0 assists in two wins over Duke last season. Love is averaging 15.3 points and 3.5 assists per game this season, but he obviously elevates his game for this rivalry.

Forward Brady Manek will also need to play well on the interior against Banchero and the Blue Devils. He had 24 points, six rebounds and two blocks against Louisville and is averaging 13.5 points and 5.6 rebounds this season.

Blue Devils Earn Road Win

This will be the last time coach Mike Krzyzewski will face the Tar Heels in Chapel Hill, and his players are going to be determined to send him out as a winner in his last trip. North Carolina isn’t going to make it easy, but we like Duke to come out on top in this one.

When doing your college basketball betting, take Duke to win and cover on the road.

Pick: Duke Blue Devils -3

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