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North Carolina vs Duke Final Four Picks: Fade Blue Devils in Highly-Anticipated Rivalry Matchup

With a bid to the National Championship on the line, two bitter rivals meet in one of the most anticipated Final Four matchups ever. We're picking the Tar Heels to cover the 4.5 point spread on Saturday night. Find out more in our North Carolina vs. Duke p

Last Updated: Apr 2, 2022 6:03 PM ET Read Time: 4 min

Twenty years from now, we’ll all remember where we were when the Duke Blue Devils faced the rival North Carolina Tar Heels in the Final Four of the 2022 NCAA Tournament.

The Tobacco Road Rivalry has never seen a grander stage and that’s saying something considering the hoopla surrounding the most recent showdown between these ACC foes: a 94-81 UNC win in Mike Krzyzewski’s finale game at Cameron Indoor.

March Madness odds have installed the Blue Devils as the betting favorites in a college hoops rivalry that has gone to the dogs, with point spread pups owning a 32-26-1 ATS mark since 1998.

Here are our free March Madness picks and predictions for North Carolina vs. Duke on April 2. We've also got you covered with our three favorite player prop picks.

North Carolina vs Duke odds

This odds widget represents the best odds available for each betting market from regulated sportsbooks.

Odds for this Final Four game were taking action before UNC had even put away St. Peter’s in the Elite Eight, opening between -5 and -4.5 and leveling off over the first 48 hours of action, with Duke as low as -4. The total hit the board as low as 149.5 at offshore markets and spiked to 151.5 points, with most shops now dealing 151 points.

Use the live odds widget above to track any future line movements right up until tip-off and be sure to check out the full college basketball odds before placing your bets.

North Carolina vs Duke predictions

Predictions made on 3/29/022 at 3:12 p.m. ET.
Click on each prediction to jump to the full analysis.

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North Carolina vs Duke game info

Location: Caesars Superdome, New Orleans, LA
Date: Saturday, April 2, 2022
Tip-off: 8:49 p.m. ET

North Carolina vs Duke betting preview


North Carolina: None.
Duke: None.
Find our latest NCAA basketball injury reports.

Betting trend to know

Duke is 23-9 SU but just 12-20 ATS as a favorite vs UNC since 2000-01. Find more NCAA betting trends for North Carolina vs. Duke.

North Carolina vs Duke picks and predictions

Our side and total predictions are based upon our analysis of the line and total in this game. Our best bet is our favorite pick across all markets.

Spread analysis

Duke’s youthful lineup has gone full Tom Hanks in the tournament, maturing at a rapid rate against some of the savviest and experienced programs in college basketball – beating Michigan State, Texas Tech, and Arkansas en route to this date in New Orleans.

That growth has been most evident on offense, specifically in the second half and even more prevalent in crunch time. The Blue Devils have been able to break those elite defenses for big buckets, but this time around face a foe that can bite back in the clutch and brings just as much firepower to the floor as the Dukies.

North Carolina’s arsenal was on display at the end of conference play when it spoiled the confetti drop in Durham for Coach K’s Cameron Indoor swan song, erupting for 94 points and boasting four players with 20 or more tallies. The Tar Heels closed as an 11-point underdog in that game and may be getting shortchanged again with this spread as big as +4.5.

These two programs match up exceedingly close. Both can push the pace in transition but also thrive in a halfcourt set. Both have tall, athletic lineups with plenty of pop in the paint, and while Duke may have the coaching edge (Krzyzewski over Hubert Davis), UNC has a deeper and more versatile roster to choose from.

Another thing UNC does well that Duke hasn’t had to worry about the past two games is pose a consistent threat from outside. Michigan State, which ranked 16th in 3-point success, drained 11 triples and nearly knocked off Duke in the Round of 32. But neither TTU nor Arkansas could stretch the Blue Devils defense with their shoddy shooting, going a combined 12 for 39 in those contests.

The Tar Heels were 36 for 91 from deep in the first three games of the Big Dance before cooling (6 for 22) in the squash of St. Peter’s in the Elite Eight. North Carolina also hit 9 of 23 3-point attempts in the win at Duke on March 5. The Tar Heels’ ability to hit those shots from beyond the arc will put pressure on the Blue Devils to make the most of every possession.

Duke is operating at an extremely high rate the past three games, boasting an effective field goal clip of 59.5%, but isn’t a dangerous team from deep, posting an average of only 5.3 triples per game since the Round of 32. North Carolina has much bigger guards marking the perimeter and getting a hand up on shooters, and UNC boasts more beef on the blocks than the Blue Devils’ past opponents.

Armando Bacot and Brady Manek are able to bang with Duke’s bigs and protect the paint, as well as keep them off the offensive glass. The Heels enter this game as the No. 2 defensive rebounding team in the land. Duke has dominated smaller defenders inside over the past three games, totaling 126 points in the paint – 52% of their total production in that span.

North Carolina, on the other hand, has given up just 90 total points in the paint since the Round of 32 and is checking opponents to a mere 41.2% success rate on 2-point field goal attempts in those contests.

Looking at the past 24 years of Duke versus UNC, point spread favorites have posted a 42-17 SU mark but have only covered in 45% of those matchups. The Blue Devils could very well win this game, but it will be much tighter than this 4.5-point spread. If you do like the Heels, this spread is shortening to -4 at many books but I expect action closer to the weekend to side with Duke and move this spread back up.

Time your wagers accordingly.

Prediction: North Carolina +4.5 (-115 at PointsBet)

Best Bonuses

Along with our March Madness best betting sites, check out the best bonuses available for the tournament.

Over/Under analysis

The Blue Devils have been a little “give and take” in the tournament, taking and making plenty of shots but also giving up a lot of points considering their competition. Duke owns a defensive efficiency rating of 1.056 over the last three rounds (compared to 0.965 on the season), making modest offensive attacks like MSU and Texas Tech look like well-oiled machines at moments.

Defense has come and gone for Coach K’s program all season, with its last two losses suffered after allowing 82 points to Virginia Tech and 94 points to North Carolina. The Blue Devils head into this Final Four game having topped the total in eight of their last 10 outings, going back to the final three games of ACC play.

As for the Heels, their offense has produced solid point totals despite facing some tight defenses and more methodical opponents. North Carolina scored 80 points in regulation against Baylor’s defense (13th in adjusted defensive efficiency at KenPom), put up 73 points on UCLA (14th in ADE and 276th in tempo), and smashed St. Pete’s for 38 first-half points before cruising to the finish line (25th in ADE and 247th in tempo).

This game will reach Super Bowl hype levels come the weekend, making it a “must bet” matchup for every recreational gambler in North America. And none of those folks want to bet the Under, which could puff up this total beyond its current standing.

If you like the Over, you can get it as low as 151 right now.

Prediction: Over 151 (-110 at bet365)

Best bet

Boy, I hope this game lives up to the hype.

Perhaps the best way to wager on that optimism is to jump into the three-way “Winning Margin” markets for the Final Four. This unique game prop offers either side to win by six points or more (Duke +110/UNC +300) or you can take the “Any Other Result” at +165, which means you’re banking on either team to win by five points or less.

Since we like UNC to cover the +4.5 but could absolutely see Duke scratching out a win, this winning margin market is essentially giving us a 10-point window to play within Saturday night. 

If you aren’t a Duke or UNC fan and “just want to see a good game” – and there will be plenty of those people Saturday night – this is the bet for you.

Pick: Winning Margin "Either Team Win By Five Or Less" (+165 at DraftKings)

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