Duke against North Carolina without Dick Vitale? That won't bother our handicapper at all as he previews the Blue Devils and Tar Heels matchup with a free college basketball pick.
Personally, it was a bit sad to hear ESPN was taking Dick Vitale out of Wednesday's microphone lineup for the big ACC battle between the North Carolina Tar Heels and Duke Blue Devils.
That's not to say I'll miss his voice, however, since my television is set to MUTE for about 90% of the sports I watch. I will also miss the voices of Dan Shulman and Jay Bilas when deportes del mundo rolls it cameras from Cameron Indoor Arena at 9 PM (ET). I won't miss the game, though, Duke currently at -8½ after starting half a tick higher. SBR's live NCAA Basketball odds remains in a holding pattern as far as the total goes.
We are about a month past the 95th anniversary of the first meeting between these two, the Tar Heels owning a 133-105 lead in the series. The Blue Devils have won eight of the last 11, however, the schools splitting home-&-home decisions and covers a year ago.
The collision in Durham a year ago was a doozy, UNC overcoming a fast start by Duke to only trail by three at the half. Jabari Parker and the Blue Devils were too much in the end, posting a 93-81 decision as 9 point home favorites in an offensive affair that easily went past 146½.
Heels In Spin Heading To Durham
North Carolina (18-7 straight up, 12-12-1 against the spread) is finishing up a very tough 5-game stretch with Wednesday's matchup at Duke. The Tar Heels are playing their fourth road game in that span, losing two of the previous three, and their backers are in search of just their fourth spread victory of the conference campaign (3-8-1 ATS).
Losing at Louisville and to Virginia at home can be understood, but last Saturday's setback at Pittsburgh was a blow to Roy Williams and the Heels. They came out very flat and had pretty much been run out of Petersen Events Center by halftime in the 89-76 defeat. North Carolina went to Pittsburgh favored by 3½, and has dropped its only two games as underdogs in ACC action, both straight up and ATS.
The Panthers deserve credit for their good shooting in the win over UNC, but the Tar Heels also contributed their share with spotty defense. There is good news for 'over' bettors when North Carolina takes the court; six of the last have topped the total, eight out of the last 10.
Coach K's Kids Return Home On 5-Game Roll
So far, so good for Duke (22-3 SU, 14-11 ATS) without Rasheed Sulaimon. Mike Krzyzewski kicked the junior guard off the team in late-January, and the Blue Devils have won all five games since then with three NCAA odds wins along the way.
My biggest concern when Sulaimon was booted from the squad had to do with this not being a deep team to begin with. The Blue Devils are pretty much relying on eight players to fill each game's 200 minutes floor time, two of those being Marshall Plumlee and Grayson Allen. Matt Jones has seen the biggest jump in minutes following Sulaimon's suspension, and come through with good showings like the career-high at Notre Dame two Saturdays ago.
If they can stay healthy, those eight players can win an NCAA Championship. The inside-outside duo of Jahlil Okafor and Quinn Cook is tough to beat, and Tyus Jones is steadily becoming a bigger part of the offense with his scoring average up to nearly 15 PPG the last nine contests.
The Blue Devils are simply playing better right now, and though 8½ might be a little high for this rivalry game, I'm laying the points on home chalk for my free NCAA Basketball pick.
Free NCAA Basketball Pick: Duke -8.5
Season: 48-41-1 (+2.9)