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Duke

at

North Carolina

College Basketball

Pick

3/4/17

To close the regular season, Duke and North Carolina meet for the second time with plenty of implications at hand. While the ACC tournament still has to be played, both teams are looking to better their NCAA seeding and North Carolina is still in range for a 1-seed. But coming off a loss at Virginia in which it only scored 43 points, the Tar Heels need to win this game and then make the title game in the ACC tourney to have a chance. Duke's expectations are a little less, but there's still a chance for a 3 or even 2-seed.

Grayson Allen and Amile Jefferson were both questionable for Tuesday's game against Florida State, but both made it and should be good to go for this one. When these teams met the first time a little less than a month ago, it was a battle the entire way with the biggest lead being the final score 86-78 in favor of Duke. Both teams played well and that was seen in their points per possession, both above 1.15. But the difference in the end had to be Grayson Allen, who kept Duke close in the first half and finished with seven made three pointers. In all, the Blue Devils made 13 from long range and they didn't get completely dominated on the boards. That said, Isaiah Hicks didn't play in that game and Luke Maye was forced to play a little more than normal.

But with Hicks back, the Tar Heels still haven't lost in Chapel Hill this season, highlighted by recent huge wins against Virginia (24 points) and Louisville (11 points). North Carolina already plays at a much higher level at home, but in the final home game of the season and of the careers for seniors Kennedy Meeks, Isaiah Hicks and Nate Britt, it's going to be extremely difficult for Duke to walk out with a win. Duke's recent performances on the road aren't all that great either in losses to Syracuse and Miami, although they have dealt with injuries.

Still, it's hard to see the Blue Devils hitting as many threes as they did in that first game. They have great shooters in Allen, Luke Kennard and Jayson Tatum, but going 13-of-27 isn't the norm for them, especially on the road. To win this game, someone will need to step up for Duke, similar to Allen last game. The reason to back Duke is because they have multiple players that can do that, namely the trio listed above.

But the difference for UNC is this game is that it can repeat what it did last game and that's dominate in the paint. With Hicks back, he and Meeks will be fed a ton down low in order to get Tatum and Jefferson in bad situations defensively. Of course, Justin Jackson and Joel Berry remain the best scorers on the team and Jackson led the way with 21 points in that first game. The Blue Devils have the talent, but UNC has the talent and the size to win this game at Chapel Hill. But the question is by how much? The Tar Heels can blow this game open, but as said above, Duke has a number of playmakers that can fight off adversity and keep this game tight on the road, which always seems to be the case between these teams.

Our Pick - NC -6.5

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