NCAA Basketball Picks: UNC Tarheels vs. Duke Blue Devils

David Lawrence

Saturday, March 8, 2014 1:57 PM UTC

Saturday, Mar. 8, 2014 1:57 PM UTC

The Duke Blue Devils couldn’t get the job done the last time they played North Carolina but this time, they will take the court against the Tar Heels with a 32-game home-court winning streak. Can North Carolina do something that is so difficult to do in Cameron Indoor Stadium? 

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The Tar Heels can win because…

They're on a roll, even though some of their wins in recent weeks haven’t been particularly strong. The Tar Heels don’t always play great, but they are now winning every game they play. The good teams, the mediocre teams, the bad teams – North Carolina is handling all of them thanks to a much improved halfcourt defense that is able to mask this offense’s struggles. It’s also fairly reasonable to say that against teams such as Virginia Tech and Notre Dame, North Carolina is playing merely to survive, while its opponents are treating such a game as though it’s the Super Bowl. Merely being able to win each and every game, no matter how handily, shows that North Carolina is growing up and learning to be tougher in the final few minutes of a game. Marcus Paige has turned himself into one of the Atlantic Coast Conference’s elite players, thanks to a well-rounded game and an increased ability to affect a game on defense. He came up with a blocked shot in the final few seconds to preserve a win over Notre Dame earlier this week. Paige is also a reliable free throw shooter on a team that struggles at the line. Late in games, Paige can hit free throws and give this team an extra edge.

The Blue Devils can win because…

They are playing at home, in a place where only great teams typically manage to beat them. It requires a certain higher degree of talent and ability to win on the road in Cameron Indoor Stadium, one of the most intimidating venues in college basketball. This is not one of the great North Carolina teams in recent years as the Tar Heels are very inconsistent and do not have the proven low-post players who are always there and always functioning at a high level. James Michael McAdoo can be a great player and he is sometimes a big force in the low post. At other times, though, McAdoo is indecisive and just not that effective. He can play soft, and can be run over by stronger opponents.

Duke has the best player on the floor in this game, Jabari Parker, and the other thing to realize about this game is that in the Blue Devils’ loss to North Carolina a few weeks ago, they struggled to hit threes. Playing at home, Duke should be able to hit a lot more long balls.

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Duke’s three-point shooting should be better than it was the last time it played North Carolina. That’s going to make a huge difference and give the home team the win for our college basketball picks.

NCAA Basketball Pick: Duke -7 at Bovada

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