North Carolina will try to run its record to 4-0 against the teams that opened the season ranked in the top four in the preseason coaches’ poll, hosting No. 9 Duke in a pivotal ACC game Wednesday night. The Tar Heels have already knocked off No. 8 Louisville, No. 10 Michigan State and No. 13 Kentucky, but will need another win against a ranked opponent for a chance to get back into the top 25. More importantly, a victory for North Carolina would bring the Tar Heels closer to the top four in the conference standings.
North Carolina has won five in a row, all by double digits, to get back into the thick of the ACC race. Duke had its own five-game winning streak in ACC play interrupted by a loss to top-ranked Syracuse on Feb. 1, but the Blue Devils have reeled off back-to-back wins against Wake Forest and Boston College. Jabari Parker is coming off career highs in points (29) and rebounds (16) in the win against Boston College.
TV: 9 p.m. ET, ESPN
LINE HISTORY: Duke opened as a 2.5-point road favorite with oddsmakers suggesting a total of 156 points.
COVERS POWER RANKINGS: Duke (-15.85) - North Carolina (-9.25) - Home Court (-3.0) = Duke -3.6
INJURY WATCH: N/A
WHAT BOOKS SAY: "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.” - Jeff Stoneback, sportsbook manager MGM Mirage Las Vegas.
WHAT SHARPS SAY: "Both teams are red hot. North Carolina in on a 5-0 SU/ATS run. Duke is 7-1 SU and ATS in its last eight with that lone loss in OT at Syracuse. Duke has played a much tougher schedule over that span with Pitt and Syracuse on the road and Virginia at home." - Covers Expert Steve Merril.
WHY BET DUKE (19-5 SU, 16-8 ATS, 12-11 O/U): Rodney Hood loses a lot of attention to Parker, but the 6-8 sophomore forward might by the Blue Devils’ most consistent player. He’s coming off back-to-back games scoring in single digits for the first time this season, so look for the Mississippi native to be extra focused for his first game against the Tar Heels. The other sophomore forward for Duke, 6-9 Amile Jefferson, is up to 66 percent shooting from the floor this season after making all three of his attempts in Saturday’s win against Boston College.
WHY BET NORTH CAROLINA (16-7, 12-11 ATS, 10-12 O/U): James Michael McAdoo will likely get the task of trying to guard Hood or Jefferson at the outset. McAdoo hasn’t had any trouble with his offensive game in a while, reaching double figures in scoring the last 16 games. McAdoo has lost three out of four in his career against Duke, including both games on his home floor, so look for a top-notch effort from the 6-9 junior forward.
* Blue Devils are 6-1 ATS in the last seven meetings in North Carolina.
* Under is 5-1 in the last six meetings in North Carolina.
* Under is 8-2 in the last 10 meetings.
* Road team is 22-8 ATS in the last 30 meetings.
CONSENSUS: 60.78 percent of the wagers are on Duke at -2.5.