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The North Carolina Tar Heels and Duke Blue Devils will collide for the third time this season, for the third time in less than a month, and for the second time in less than a week when another chapter to the rivalry is added in the semifinals of the ACC Tournament at the Spectrum Center in Charlotte, N.C. on Friday night. North Carolina held off Louisville in its opener, while Duke took care of Syracuse.
North Carolina and Duke–the second and third seeds, respectively–renew their storied rivalry in the ACC Tournament semis on Friday. Blue Devils freshman forward Zion Williamson has played a grand total of 36 seconds in this series, but that figures to change in this one. Williamson suffered a knee injury in the first minute of the first meeting Feb. 20 and missed the next five games before making a triumphant return in Duke’s 84-72 victory over sixth-seeded Syracuse in Thursday’s ACC quarterfinals. He recently joined Duke’s Jahlil Okafor (2015) and Marvin Bagley III (2018) as the only players in ACC history to win Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year. Upon his return, Williamson lived up to that same standard on Thursday to the tune of a dominant performance that included 29 points on perfect 13-of-13 shooting, 14 rebounds, and five steals.
Freshman R.J. Barrett and Williamson are one and two in the ACC in scoring at 23.3 and 21.9 points per game, respectively. Barrett scored 23 on Thursday and is averaging 25.7 ppg over the last three contests. Williamson averages a team-high 9.0 rpg and is shooting a conference-best 69.6 percent from the floor–better than his free-throw percentage, which sits at 64.6 percent after he went 2-for-9 against the ‘Cuse. Barrett increased his ACC freshman scoring record to 747 points and has totaled at least 13 in every game this season. Freshman guard Tre Jones (8.9 ppg, team-high 5.4 apg) scored 15 points and went 8-for-8 from the free-throw line on Thursday while recording eight assists–his most since dishing out a career-high nine in the ACC opener against Clemson on Jan. 5.
White on a roll
The Tar Heels defeated Duke 88-72 in the game Williamson was injured and also prevailed 79-70 last Saturday in the regular-season finale. Maintaining momentum, North Carolina advanced to the ACC Tournament semifinals with an 83-70 victory over seventh-seeded Louisville on Thursday for its eighth straight win. UNC got 19 points, seven rebounds, and six assists (and just one turnover) from freshman guard Coby White.
“I get on him about his shots and I get on him about his turnovers,” head coach Roy Williams said of White. “But he is making much better decisions. It’s attack, attack, attack. That’s what we talk about all the time. We want to attack like crazy and be under control.”
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— Carolina Basketball (@UNC_Basketball) March 15, 2019
Senior forward Luke Maye (14.8 ppg, team-high 10.4 rpg) recorded 19 points and nine rebounds on Thursday, snapping a string of six straight games with at least 10 boards. White (16.4 ppg, team-leading 4.2 apg), whose 76 three-pointers this season are the most by a freshman in school history, is averaging 22.6 ppg in his last five outings.
The North Carolina Tar Heels are:
- 6-2 ATS in their last eight overall
- 9-3 ATS in their last 12 games against teams with winning records
- 13-5 ATS in their last 18 games following a win
The Duke Blue Devils are:
- 2-6-1 ATS in their last nine overall
- 1-5-1 ATS in their last seven games against teams with winning records
- 0-6 ATS in their last six games following a win
The Bottom Line What to bet on this game.
Full-Game Side Bet
Williamson’s return will help, of course, but UNC seems to have Duke’s number. Even with Williamson back, the Blue Devils interior defense still stunk against Syracuse and that is something the Tar Heels will continue to exploit even more than the Orange were capable of doing. Duke is 2-6-1 ATS in its last nine against the ACC and 1-5-1 ATS in its last seven against opponents with winning percentages over .600. The Tar Heels are 6-2 ATS in their last eight against the ACC, 7-3 ATS in their last 10 against opponents with winning percentages over .600, and 4-1 ATS in the last five meetings between the two teams.
Prediction: North Carolina Tar Heels
Full-Game Total Pick
The Tar Heels and Blue Devils are one and two nationally in rebounding at 43.5 and 41.9 per game, respectively. There should be plenty of missed shots and not many second-chance looks on Friday. Williamson’s return will only ensure that. UNC senior guard Cameron Johnson (team-high 16.8 ppg) has scored 14 points in each of his last two games after averaging 21.3 ppg in his previous six contests. The under is 33-16-2 in the Blue Devils’ last 51 overall, 10-4 in their last 14 against the ACC, and 5-0 in their last five against winning opponents. It is also 15-7 in the Tar Heels’ last 22 overall, 5-0 in their last five against winning opponents, and 11-5 in their last 16 against opponents with winning percentages over .600. Additionally, the under is 5-0 in the last five meetings between the two teams. Look for this one to stay under the total.