Second Seed in ACC Tournament Up for Grabs in UNC-Duke Finale

Matthew Jordan

Friday, March 2, 2018 4:59 PM UTC

Friday, Mar. 2, 2018 4:59 PM UTC

North Carolina and Duke always close the regular season against one another, and that’s the case Saturday (8:15 p.m. ET, ESPN) in Durham as the Heels look for the season sweep.

No. 9 North Carolina (22-8, 16-12-1 ATS) at No. 5 Duke (24-6, 18-10 ATS)Free NCAAB Pick: DukeBest Line Offered: BetOnline

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The greatest rivalry perhaps in all of college sports and certainly in NCAA basketball is renewed on the final Saturday of the regular season, per usual, as No. 9 North Carolina visits No. 5 Duke at 8:15 p.m. ET on ESPN (GameDay is in Durham). Both of these teams are almost always ranked whenever they play, but this is the first time since 2012 that both are in the Top 10 when squaring off.

This could be their last meeting of the season … it’s also possible they could play twice more: in next week’s ACC Tournament and the NCAA Tournament. However, they have yet to meet in the Big Dance. Both reached the 1991 Final Four, with UNC losing to Kansas and Duke upsetting that unbeaten UNLV team.

Carolina leads the all-time series 136-110, but they have split their past 100 meetings with just seven total points separating the schools that separated by nine miles. On Feb. 8 in Chapel Hill, the No. 21 Tar Heels were 1.5-point favorites over the No. 9 Blue Devils, and UNC won 82-78. Carolina had four players score at least 15 points. Joel Berry II led the way with 21, and Cameron Johnson had his best game of the season with 19 points and 13 rebounds. The Tar Heels opened the second half on a 16-2 run and never looked back. Duke got 15 points and 16 rebounds from Marvin Bagley III but just nine points from Grayson Allen.

Since Roy Williams landed at UNC, Duke leads the series 18-13 but has outscored the Heels by just 36 combined points (1.16 ppg). The last nine meetings have been decided by 10 points or fewer, with six by two points or fewer. The Blue Devils are 5-1 in those six.

The favorite has covered four of the past five in the series.

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Both Coming Off Trap Game Losses

Don’t believe in look-ahead/trap games? Both schools were caught in one earlier this week.

Duke was stunned at Virginia Tech, 64-63 Monday, on a tip-in with four seconds left. The Blue Devils committed 18 turnovers, and Tech turned them into 24 points. Duke went 4-0 in dominating fashion when Bagley was out with an injured but hasn’t looked quite the same since he returned for the past two. Tremendous offensive player/rebounder and a lock Top 5 pick in this year’s draft, but the Blue Devils’ defense is worse with him on the court and the ball doesn’t move as well (past two games were Duke’s second- and third-fewest points of the season). ESPN analyst Dan Dakich called Bagley selfish during Monday’s telecast. Not sure he’s wrong.

“Bagley is all about Bagley. I mean, honest to goodness, I can see in 18 minutes why Duke was able to go on a run when he was hurt. You hate to say that about a kid, but he is about himself. He gets the ball, it doesn’t come out,” Dakich said.

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Not sure about you, but we’re still gettin’ goosebumps.

— Canes Hoops (@CanesHoops) February 28, 2018

North Carolina was shocked at home by Miami on Tuesday, 91-88, on a Ja’Quan Newton buzzer-beating 3-pointer just a few steps inside halfcourt. Berry II had tied it on a 3-pointer with 4.1 seconds left, and Miami opted to not call timeout. Newton took the inbounds pass and never gave up the ball. It ended Carolina’s six-game winning streak and was a crushing loss for seniors such as Berry and Theo Pinson in their home finale.

The only thing those losses did was perhaps hurt each school’s seeding in the ACC and NCAA Tournaments (neither will be a No. 1 seed in the Big Dance). The two things we know for sure for the ACC tourney is that Virginia is the No. 1 seed as the regular-season champion and conference winless Pittsburgh is the No. 15. A Top 4 seed earns a double-bye into the quarterfinals. Duke the No. 2 with a victory Saturday and No. 3 with a loss. North Carolina would be the second seed with a win but could slide out of the Top 4 with a defeat depending on what happens elsewhere around the ACC.

Saturday will be the home finale for Allen, on the short list of all-time hated Duke players (notice they are always white?) by non-Duke fans. He’s the only senior, but freshmen Bagley and Wendell Carter Jr. are playing in their finale at Cameron as they will declare for the NBA Draft. Gary Trent Jr. and Trevon Duval might too.

This decade, Duke is 6-2 at home in this series. KenPom predicts a final score of 88-81 on Saturday. That sounds about right, so give the points for Saturday’s NCAAB pick. The Heels have covered just two of their past six road games, while Duke is 4-0 ATS in its past four at home.

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