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Duke Blue Devils vs. North Carolina Tar Heels Prediction: Heels Seek Revenge For Last Season’s Home Loss

Written by: Andrew Norton
Published February 3, 2024
6 min read

Possibly the greatest rivalry in American sports adds another chapter to its storied history on Saturday when the Duke Blue Devils (16-4, 7-2 in ACC) make the short trip to Chapel Hill for an inevitable bloodbath against the North Carolina Tar Heels (17-4, 9-1 in ACC).

This rivalry is always entertaining, but it becomes even more enthralling when both teams are ranked. In this case, they both sit in the top ten! We could be looking at two championship-caliber teams facing off for pride, resume, and conference positioning. 

Find our Duke Blue Devils vs. North Carolina Tar Heels prediction and betting pick below, featuring an in-depth analysis of both of these teams’ seasons, the outlook for their respective futures in March, and the projection for this game!

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Duke Blue Devils vs. North Carolina Tar Heels Betting Odds for Saturday, Feb. 3

As the away team playing in a hostile environment, the Duke Blue Devils are four-point road dogs against their bitter rival, the North Carolina Tar Heels, on Saturday. The point total for this decades-old rivalry rests around 151 points, with both the Over and the Under holding -110 odds.

Duke Blue Devils+4 (-110)N/AOver 151 (-110)
North Carolina Tar Heels-4 (-110)N/AUnder 151 (-110)

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This will be the first time these two teams face each other this season. The second edition of this rivalry will take place later in the year at Cameron Indoor. Last year, the Duke Blue Devils came into the Dean Smith Center and won by five points against the Tar Heels, who had one of their worst seasons ever, at least relative to expectations. That embarrassing loss will undoubtedly be at the forefront of the UNC players’ minds this time around.

The Tar Heels were ranked the No. 1 team in the country in the preseason before the 2022-23 campaign but failed even to make the 2023 NCAA Tournament, which marked the first time in college basketball history. Despite the horrible ending, two of the Tar Heels’ three best players (R.J. Davis and Armando Bacot) opted to return to Chapel Hill for one more try. Even though Caleb Love, D’Marco Dunn, and Puff Johnson all transferred, and Pete Nance and Leaky Black went to the NBA, Davis and Bacot’s return was a great start at retaining a competitive team. 

Head coach Hubert Davis made sure to hit the transfer portal, too, bringing in Notre Dame’s Cormac Ryan, Stanford forward Harrison Ingram, and Louisville forward Jae’Lyn Withers to join Davis and Bacot. Further, former five-star guard Elliot Cadeau decided to reclassify to the class of 2023, allowing him to play for the Tar Heels one year earlier than expected. Two other returners to the program, Jalen Washington and Seth Trimble, have also taken major steps forward, giving North Carolina plenty of talent and depth to compete with any team on any night.

One major difference between last season’s and this season’s teams is defense. The Tar Heels rank fourth in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency, as opposed to 46th during the 2022-23 campaign. Additionally, they sit in 13th in opponent eFG%, 22nd in opponent 3P%, and sixth in defensive rebounding percentage. All of those statistics are unadjusted, which makes the Tar Heels look even more impressive, considering their strength of schedule rating of +8.85, which is 13th in the nation.

Conversely, the Duke Blue Devils improved drastically on the other end of the floor, leaping from a fringe top-50 offensive team to the ninth-ranked team in adjusted offensive efficiency in the nation. A large portion of their success in that area can be attributed to the fact that they brought back their four best players from last year’s team: Mark Mitchell, Jeremy Roach, Kyle Filipowski, and Tyrese Proctor, all returned for another season.

While Duke didn’t have to hit the transfer portal like UNC, it brought in some more bench depth in four highly touted recruits. In particular, Jared McCain has been sensational and has played his way into a likely first-round selection in the upcoming 2024 NBA Draft.

Despite Duke’s cohesion and abundance of talent, the team still has a lot of red flags. For one, the Blue Devils are wildly inconsistent this season, especially away from Cameron Indoor. Even on their home floor, Duke has lost to unranked Pittsburgh and narrowly beat Clemson (one point) and Georgia Tech (five points.) The disparity in talent between Duke and the aforementioned teams is substantial, yet it just doesn’t always “show up.

Will the Blue Devils show up tonight? Find out below.

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Duke Blue Devils vs. North Carolina Tar Heels Prediction and Betting Pick

We have discussed in–depth throughout the season how inconsistent the Duke Blue Devils have been, particularly on the road. This spot is no different for Duke, as they enter what will be one of the most hostile environments in college basketball on Saturday.

Duke and North Carolina will not give up many second-chance points because of how consistent they are on the defensive glass. However, the Tar Heels are one of the best defensive teams in the nation and their unadjusted rank of 22nd in the nation in opponent 3P% despite having one of the toughest schedules in the country, is nothing short of exceptional. They are simply leaps and bounds better than Duke on that end of the floor.

Further, even though Duke ranks 14th in the nation in 3P%, its percentage takes a monstrous hit on the road, dropping nearly seven percent relative to its shooting from deep at home. Free-throw shooting and frequency are also concerns. The Tar Heels draw a ton of fouls, ranking 14th in free-throws per game, and shoot roughly five percent better from the line when they are at home than Duke does on the road. 

Lastly, North Carolina is out for revenge. This team is cohesive, talented, and determined, and they certainly have not forgotten about last year’s loss to Duke at home. The Tar Heels are going to come out with a vengeance; they have more experience, physicality, and a much better defense. Back UNC at home!

How to Watch Duke Blue Devils vs. North Carolina Tar Heels

  • When: Saturday, Feb. 3 @ 3:30/6:30 p.m. PT/ET

  • Where: Dean Smith Center, Chapel Hill, NC

  • TV: ESPN

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Andrew Norton

Sports Betting Analyst

Betting Picks
Andrew has always been an avid sports fan and followed his hoop dreams all the way to college. He’s well-versed in everything betting with multiple years of experience and is qualitatively and quantitatively knowledgeable in sports statistics and analytics.
Nationality: American
Education: Bachelor of Arts
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