The greatest rivalry in college basketball has been played 257 times, but Duke and North Carolina have never met during March Madness. That changes on Saturday when the Tar Heels and Blue Devils meet in the Final Four with a spot in the national championship on the line. Read on for our March Madness North Carolina-Duke odds and picks.
North Carolina is making its 21st Final Four appearance, the most all time. It earned a Final Four berth by dominating Saint Peter’s, 69-49, in the Elite Eight, improving its record to 28-1 in the NCAA Tournament against opponents seeded No. 12 or higher. Hubert Davis is the second person ever to play and coach in the Final Four with the same team. Davis is also the first coach to make a Final Four in his first season since former North Carolina bench boss Bill Guthridge did so in 1998.
Meanwhile, Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski makes a record 13th Final Four appearance, passing John Wooden for the most ever. Krzyzewski is the 10th head coach to make a Final Four in his final season.
Here are my picks and predictions for Saturday’s Final Four matchup between Duke and North Carolina (odds via BetMGM; pick confidence based on a 1-to-5-star scale).
SEE ALSO: March Madness Odds and Picks
North Carolina vs. Duke Game Info
Date: Saturday, April 2, 8:49 p.m. ET
Location: Caesars Superdome, New Orleans, LA
North Carolina vs. Duke Odds
North Carolina vs. Duke Odds Analysis
Duke opened as a 4-point favorite but has since been unanimously bet up to -4.5. The Blue Devils went 1-1 straight-up and against the spread in two regular-season meetings against the Tar Heels. North Carolina has covered the spread in all four March Madness games, while Duke covered its last three, which followed a span of seven consecutive March Madness games in which it didn't cover.
The Over/Under has much more volatility than the point spread, as some sportsbooks are as low as 150.5 points and as high as 151.5. The two regular-season meetings between Duke and North Carolina totaled 154 and 175 points, respectively, each cashing the Over. The Over is 5-2 in North Carolina’s last seven games as an underdog and 8-2 in Duke’s previous 10.
SEE ALSO: March Madness Betting Guide
North Carolina vs. Duke Picks
- Duke -4.5 (-110) ★★★
- Under 151.5 (-110) ★★★★
North Carolina vs. Duke Predictions
Duke -4.5 (-110)
Though Duke’s run to the Final Four hasn't been as dominant as North Carolina's, the Blue Devils look like a team that's finally getting the most out of its elite athletes.
Duke is on another level in March, in large part because of the improved play of Jeremy Roach. Roach’s ability to break down defenders and get into the lane has opened up scoring opportunities for his teammates, namely Paolo Banchero.
Banchero entered the tournament shooting 33.3% from 3-point range but has made eight of 15 3-point attempts through four games. In addition, his 58 points through the Sweet 16 were the most by a freshman in the tournament. Banchero averaged 18 points in the two regular-season meetings with North Carolina, and he should be in for an even bigger game.
The Blue Devils have been lights-out offensively and will challenge North Carolina’s defense in ways that none of its first four tournament opponents could. Duke is the first team to have 50% (field-goal percentage), 30% (3-point percentage), and 70% (free-throw percentage) shooting splits in four consecutive March Madness games.
Duke looks like a team on a mission to send its coach to retirement with a championship, and that continues with a win and cover against its biggest rival.
Under 151.5 (-110)
The prior two meetings easily surpassed their projected point totals, and each team has averaged better than 79 points per game in the tournament. However, I'm backing the under because of program familiarity and the fact that it's the third meeting of the season, both of which should lead to a lower-scoring game.
Though both offenses have scorched the nets to this point, each defense has allowed fewer than 70 points per contest. Duke’s Mark Williams has been an elite rim protector through four games, and he's the first player with at least 50 points and 15 blocks entering a Final Four contest since Anthony Davis did so in 2012.
Finally, with this game being played at the Superdome in a cavernous football stadium, it'll be very different from those previous contests. These huge venues often affect teams’ sightlines and perimeter shooting. I expect the surroundings to impact the scoring, and each team’s improved defense will combine with that to push this game Under.
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March Madness odds and best bets made 3/28/2022 at 9:28 a.m. ET.