Winner Takes All: Duke and Carolina Battle for ACC Title

Duke Blue Devils at North Carolina Tarheels, Dean Smith Center, Chapel Hill, NC
Saturday, March 5, 2011, 8:00 pm Eastern, TV: CBS
Opening Line: Duke -1
Current Line: North Carolina -1 1/2
Opening Total: 148 1/2
Current Total: 149
Money Line: UNC -125 / Duke +105

The Tarheels and Blue Devils meet for the 231th time tonight in Chapel Hill. Duke is a slight underdog on the road in this battle to decide the ACC Championship.

Duke and North Carolina renew college basketball’s most heated rivalry tonight in Chapel Hill. The game takes on added importance as both teams are tied atop the ACC standings with 13-2 records. The winner will clinch the ACC regular season title outright. CBS is actually showing this game on national television in prime time. Duke is 27-3 overall and #4 in both polls. Carolina is 23-6 and #13 in both polls. The Tarheels have won 6 straight games since losing at Duke February 9 including a 72-70 win at Florida St. North Carolina had a 15 point lead in the second half against Duke, before the Blue Devils  came back to win 79-73. North Carolina started off the season a disappointing 7-4 but have gone 16-2 since then. The Blue Devils’ win over North Carolina was part of a 7 game winning streak for Duke, The streak was snapped last Saturday night with a 64-60 loss at Virginia Tech. Duke rebounded from that loss with a 70-59 home win over Clemson Wednesday night.

Duke has won 45 of their last 49 games including 17 of 19 against the ACC. Duke has won 20 of the last 29 meetings versus North Carolina straight up, including the last 3 in the series. Duke is 11-14 all time in the Dean Smith Center. This is the sixth time Duke and North Carolina have played in the regular season finale with the ACC regular season title on the line. Duke has won and covered 3 of the last 5 games in the series, and 4 of those 5 have gone under the total. North Carolina is 9-2 ATS versus conference teams with winning records this season.

Duke has been playing without guard Kyrie Irving since early December who is out with a foot injury. Duke has two other players besides Irving who are averaging double digit scoring. Senior guard Nolan Smith is averaging 21.3 points to lead the team, 4.9 rebounds, 5.2 assists to lead the team, and 1.3 steals a game to lead the team. Smith is a candidate for ACC player of the year. Forward Kyle Singler is averaging 17.4 points, 6.7 rebounds, 1.6 assists, and 1 steal a game. Guard Seth Curry averages 9 points, 1.8 rebounds, 2.1 assists, and 1.4 steals a game to lead the team off the bench. He also shoot 42.7% from 3 point range.  Guard Andre Dawkins, averages 8.2 points and 2 rebounds a game.   Mason Plumlee leads the team in rebounds with 8.7 a game and blocks with 1.7 a game. Duke is outscoring opponents 82-64 on the season. The Blue Devils are shooting 47.6% from the field and 39% from 3-point range. Duke opponents are shooting 39.6% from the field. Duke makes 74.7% of their free throws. The Blue Devils average 37.2 rebounds a game and have a rebounding margin of +2.8. The Devils average 14.3 assists and 11.7 turnovers a game. Duke forces 14.9 turnovers a game on defense. Duke averages 4.4 blocks and 7.5 steals a game.

North Carolina point guard Larry Drew II left the team a few weeks ago after losing his starting  job. Drew averaged 3.9  assists a game and 4.4 points a game.   Forward Tyler Zeller is the leading scorer for the Tarheels with 14.6 points a game. He also averages 7.2 rebounds and 1.2 blocks a game. Forward Harrison Barnes averages 13.9 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 1.4 assists a game. Forward John Henson leads the team in rebounds with 9.6 a game and blocks with 3.2 a game. He also averages 11.3 points a game. Dexter Strickland leads the team in steals with 1.2 a game. Point Guard Kendall Marshall  leads the team in assists with 5.4 a game. UNC is outscoring opponents 77-67. The Tarheels are shooting 45% from the field and 32% from 3-point range. Tarheel opponents are shooting 40.1% from the field. The Tarheels struggle from the free throw line converting only 66.4% from the line. North Carolina averages 42.7 rebounds a game and has a rebounding margin of +6.5. They lead the nation in rebounding.  They average 15.4 assists and 13.3 turnovers a game. They force  14.4 turnovers a game on defense. Carolina averages 6.4 steals and 5.6 blocks a game.

Duke has dominated the series recently. Besides the ACC title the teams are playing for national seeding. Duke has a good shot of being a #1 seed in the NCAA tournament. North Carolina would probably be a 4 seed right now, but can move up to a 2 or a 3 if they win this game and the ACC tournament. North Carolina is looking for revenge over their rivals after blowing the last game they played.

Our college basketball handicappers are red hot in 2011. Don’t miss out on any more winners from now until they Cut down the nets in Houston next month.

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