The Tobacco Road Rivalry between Duke and North Carolina hasn’t lost its spot atop college basketball’s most heated clashes, even if the Tar Heels are unranked heading into Wednesday’s home date against the Blue Devils.
Jeff Stoneback, sportsbook manager at the MGM Mirage, is expecting a significant bump in betting action for Wednesday’s college hoops handle, and Duke-UNC is the reason.
"Duke-UNC is one of the biggest matchups of our NCAA year and it draws one of our largest nights in terms of action where we can see around three times of what you could see for an average late season game,” Stoneback tells Covers.
"With college basketball you don't get as many rivalry games as you would see in college football and with Duke and North Carolina being the two schools with the biggest national brands, we generally see a spike in bets from the public whenever they play due to that big-game feel."
But just because Wednesday’s game has a wave of bad blood behind it, don’t expect books to treat the odds for Duke-UNC any differently. Stoneback says linemakers use the same process to set the spread for heated rivalries as they do for each regular season game.
Covers Expert Marc Lawrence echoed Stoneback's take, stating oddsmakers stick to their guns, basing the numbers on each teams’ current power ratings, key injuries, recent form, and home court.
"If (the oddsmaker) senses there will be a rush to one team or another due to public sentiment he will also adjust accordingly,” adds Lawrence.
Duke won both meetings with North Carolina last year but the road team covered the spread in each game. In fact, the last five meetings between the two have seen the road team cover, and going back long term, the visitor is 22-8 ATS in the last 30 installments of the Tobacco Road Rivalry.
Wednesday will mark the third straight time the two schools have met with North Carolina outside the Top 25 – a situation that hasn’t been kind to the Tar Heels. Duke has won 11 of those 12 matchups since 2000, going 7-5 ATS, with eight of those wins coming by double digits.
As for UNC being unranked for the second straight year, Stoneback doesn't think that will affect much Wednesday.
"UNC-Duke will always be one of, if not the biggest nights for college basketball, even if UNC is unranked based on the popularity of the programs,” he says.
The early odds out of Las Vegas have Duke set as a 1-point road favorite with the total at 156 points.