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ACC Hoops Pick
It seemed that North Carolina was playing better as of late until their last road game. They travelled to conference-leading Miami (FL) and got ran out of the gym from the start, losing 87-61. The same thing happened to Duke a few weeks ago, but that was their first real game without Ryan Kelly in the lineup.
Besides that loss and other one at NC State, the Blue Devils have had a pretty nice season. Like most teams this year, they've had problems on the road, so you can excuse their two losses. Although they almost added a third loss on Sunday when they needed a late free throw to beat Boston College. That said, they haven't had much competition in ACC play in Durham. Their closest conference home game so far was a 13-point win over the Wolfpack. Earlier in the season, they beat Ohio State by five points at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
Things haven't been as easy for UNC this year after being labeled the No. 11 team in the nation in preseason polls. Again, their problems have mainly been away from home. They already have ACC losses at Virginia, NC State and Miami (FL). The question won't be if they can beat Duke, it will be can they keep it close? They were unable to do that against the Hurricanes and needed a 57-point second half to make it an 8-point game against the Wolfpack. Without much of a break from that Miami (FL) game, they'll have to figure things out on a short turnaround.
The Tar Heels are led by James Michael McAdoo and Reggie Bullock on the offensive end, but neither one of them could do much against the Hurricanes. McAdoo was a miserable 3-of-12 from the field for six points, eight under his season average. Those two will need to pick up the slack as will the rest of the team as UNC's defense isn't the greatest. Sure, Miami (FL) shot 15-of-26 from long range, but UNC also allowed 91 points at NC State. Defending Duke will not be any easier.
Guards Dexter Strickland and Marcus Paige will have their hands full all game trying to contain Seth Curry and Quinn Cook. Curry is hitting his stride at the right time with at least 18 points in four straight games. Cook was on a similar stretch until his nine-point effort at Boston College. Those two are tough to stop in themselves, but Mason Plumlee is their leading scorer. He'll be matched up with the like-framed McAdoo which should be an interesting battle. Plumlee has bettered his opponents for much of the season. More recently he had a 30-point game vs. NC State and a 32-point performance at Wake Forest. Throw in his 10.7 rebounds per game and you have a force. In comparison, McAdoo averages 14.9 PPG and 8.2 REB.
Usually, this game gets a lot more attention, but due to the disappointing season of the Tar Heels so far, there isn't a whole lot of build up for Wednesday night. The Blue Devils will be good sized favorites and will get most of the money as not a lot of people will believe in UNC after their latest road blowout.
Predicted Score - Duke 80 North Carolina 65
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