Each angling for a top seed in the upcoming national tournament, the No. 5 North Carolina Tar Heels (25-5, 13-4 ACC) and the No. 17 Duke Blue Devils (23-7, 11-6) renewed their rivalry and closed men’s college basketball regular season Saturday night at Dean E. Smith Center in Chapel Hill.
In terms of momentum, the Blue Devils may have had a bit more even though North Carolina’s ranked higher nationally. The Tar Heels came off a disappointing 53-43 road let down to No. 23 Virginia, during which they shot 35.4 percent from the field and 25 percent from three-point range. Roy Williams’ squad also committed 14 costly turnovers, after only nine days prior completely dismantling the Cavaliers by 24 points on their home floor.
The home distinction could make all the difference for North Carolina, whose 15-0 at the Dean this season—one of only two other ACC teams to be perfect in their own gym. Duke, however, is only 3-5 on the road this season.
The Tar Heels are led by junior swingman Justin Jackson, who was seventh in the ACC with 18.4 points per game, and senior forward Kennedy Meeks’s 12.6 points and 9.1 rebounds. Meeks had also served as the Tar Heels best rim protector with 30 blocks this season.
Duke, which had dropped its two previous games, knocked off No. 15 Florida State at home behind 6-foot-3 freshman guard Frank Jackson’s season-high 22 points in a win that made up for a 16-point letdown in January.
That victory marked the final home game for Duke forward Amile Jefferson, who added 14 points and 11 rebounds, while team leading scorer Luke Kennard notched 17 points.
When the two squads last met on Feb. 10, Duke walked away with an 86-78 victory as guard Grayson Allen poured in 25 points and Kennard 20 more.
But to date, the Tar Heels have owned the all-time matchup since 1950. According to FiveThirtyEight, North Carolina has gone 83-81 against Duke.
Start Time: Saturday, 8:15 p.m. EST
TV Channel: ESPN
Live Stream: ESPN3
Prediction: Much depends on the Tar Heels' shooting from beyond the arc. At home and after some poor shooting performances, expect Williams' squad to prevail by double digits.