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Harrison Ingram #55 and Armando Bacot #5 of the North Carolina Tar Heels
Harrison Ingram #55 and Armando Bacot #5 of the North Carolina Tar Heels react during the second half of the game against the Syracuse Orange. Photo by Grant Halverson via AFP

The North Carolina Tar Heels host the Duke Blue Devils on Saturday, and we offer our best Duke vs. North Carolina prediction based on the best college basketball odds.

One of the best rivalries in college basketball - and arguably all of sports - adds another chapter Saturday when North Carolina (17-4, 9-1 ACC) hosts archrival Duke (16-4, 7-2) in a critical game between two of the favorites by the latest March Madness odds.

Duke struggled to a 5-3 start to open the season, which included a loss in its ACC opener at Georgia Tech. Since then, the Blue Devils have ripped off 11 wins in their last 12 games to come within 1.5 games of first-place UNC in the conference.

Meanwhile, the Tar Heels were the last Power 6 team to lose in league play, falling 74-73 to Georgia Tech on Tuesday to foil an unblemished ACC record. North Carolina remains ninth in the NET rankings, and its four Quad 1 wins are tied with Duke for the most of any ACC school.

This is the first top-10 matchup between these rivals since the 2019 ACC Tournament semifinals, which was also the last year they were both ranked in the top 25 in a regular-season matchup.

Here is our best Duke vs. North Carolina prediction and our college basketball picks (odds via our best March Madness betting sites; pick confidence based on a 1-to-5-star scale).

Duke vs. UNC prediction

Duke +5 ⭐⭐⭐

Best odds: -113 via BetRivers

If you want an idea of how high-profile and competitive the Duke-UNC rivalry is, ACC Network producer Bryan Ives pointed out that this is the 49th top-10 matchup between these teams, which is 35 more than any other matchup of two college basketball teams.

And in the first 48 such meetings UNC and Duke have each won 24 times, with the Tar Heels averaging 76.8 points per game and the Blue Devils averaging 76.0 points per game.

Duke and UNC annually play twice a year, and since 2010, Duke has dominated the first matchups of the season, going 10-4 SU compared to 7-7 in the rematches. Also in that span, Duke has swept UNC five times, while the Tar Heels have returned the favor once.

North Carolina may be on the path to a No. 1 seed, but it has not been the most impressive team analytically. The Tar Heels rank ninth or worse in ACC play in turnover rate (16.2%), turnovers forced (14.4%), effective field goal percentage, 2-point shooting (48.4%) and 3-point shooting (32.1%). Instead, North Carolina has relied on a rock-solid defense that ranks first in adjusted defensive efficiency and defending the perimeter (26.8% 3-point percentage allowed).

We expect Duke to exploit North Carolina’s turnover issues, and pose as the biggest threat to the Tar Heels defense that it has seen in league play, on the heels of the ACC’s best offense, per adjusted offensive efficiency. Duke also makes 40.3% of its 3-point attempts in league play, and five of its six leading scorers shoot 37.3% or better from beyond the arc.

This is a three-star play, as this is the healthiest Duke has been all season with Jeremy Roach, Tyrese Proctor, and Mark Mitchell back in action. Proctor, in particular, has raised the Blue Devils’ offensive ceiling considerably, averaging 16.4 points and making 15-of-31 3-point attempts over the last five games.

Florida State and Georgia Tech each made nine three-pointers and shot 45% from beyond the arc against North Carolina in the last two games, so if Duke is making threes, especially in transition, it will be a long day for the Tar Heels defense.

Tar Heels fans can get ready for the launch of North Carolina sports betting by checking out the best North Carolina sports betting apps. Be sure to take advantage of the best North Carolina sportsbook promos

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Duke vs. UNC best odds

BetRivers (-113)

Duke +4Duke -4.5Duke +4.5Duke +4.5Duke +5

BetRivers is the easy choice for our go-to sportsbook as Duke backers, as it is the only shop offering a line as high as +5. The clear theme of most of our top sportsbooks that offer Duke +4.5 is that they charge more in juice to back the underdogs, but BetRivers' price of -114 for a point spread a half-point higher is still better value than the -115 and -120 found at BetMGM and FanDuel, respectively. The Tar Heels enter on a nine-game home winning streak at the Dean E. Smith Center.

Duke vs.UNC odds

Duke vs. UNC odds analysis

Any reported point spread movement has gone in favor of Duke, as North Carolina opened as 5.5-point favorites on Friday afternoon at FanDuel, and was -5 to start at DraftKings. The Blue Devils ended a four-game cover-less streak in their last win at Virginia Tech and is 2-3-1 ATS on the road this season. North Carolina has covered five of nine games as a home favorite, and is 4-2 ATS against ranked opponents this season.

There is a big range among our top sports betting sites with regards to the total, as FanDuel is on the low end at 150.5, while BetRivers is the only shop higher than 151.5, offering a total one point higher at 152.5. North Carolina has drastic O/U splits between non-conference and ACC games, as the Over is 8-2-1 in its non-conference games, but the Under has cashed in nine of its 10 ACC matchups.

Duke vs. UNC game info

  • When: Saurday, Feb. 3, 2024 at 6:30 p.m. ET
  • Where: Dean Smith Center in Chapel Hill, NC
  • How to watch: ESPN

Duke vs UNC prediction made Saturday at 6:53 a.m. ET.

Here are our best March Madness betting sites:

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