North Carolina vs Duke Odds, Picks and Predictions: Youth Serves Blue Devils Well

Both North Carolina and Duke have struggled to meet preseason expectations, but while UNC's upperclassmen keep plodding, Duke's freshmen are still improving. Our college basketball picks like them to assert themselves Saturday.

Last Updated: Feb 4, 2023 11:24 AM ET Read Time: 4 min
Kyle Filipowski Duke Blue Devils
Photo By - USA TODAY Sports

The most historic rivalry in college basketball adds another chapter on Saturday as the Duke Blue Devils host the North Carolina Tar Heels. Although neither school is currently ranked, both have enough time and talent to turn things around and become the national championship contenders they were supposed to be.

College basketball betting lines opened with the Blue Devils as 3-point home favorites at Cameron Indoor Stadium while the Over/Under sits at 144.5. Here are my best free North Carolina vs. Duke college basketball picks and predictions for February 4.

North Carolina vs Duke best odds

North Carolina vs Duke picks and predictions

North Carolina entered this season as a title favorite after returning most of its core from the squad that lost in the national championship game last year. However, poor man-to-man defense and a massive dropoff in 3-point shooting have hurt the Tar Heels.

Duke was expected to quickly retool after adding three of the Top-4 freshman in the nation according to 247Sports, while also signing two others in the Top 30. Unfortunately, inexperience has been an issue and the Blue Devils had struggled with their half-court offense.

However, while North Carolina's problems continue to plague them, Duke's vaunted freshmen class is improving every week and the Blue Devils have been far more efficient on offense lately. 

Freshman big man Kyle Filipowski (15.8 points and 9.5 rebounds per game) has been a stud all season while forward Mark Mitchell has been a consistent contributor with 9.1 ppg on 48% shooting. But two other freshmen, guard Tyrese Proctor and center Dereck Lively II have really stepped up lately. Proctor is averaging 12.7 ppg and 4.2 apg in the last six games while Lively has blocked 12 shots in his previous four contests. 

Duke went through an ugly three-game stretch in January where it had an effective field goal percentage of just 42% with a turnover rate of 20.5%. However, that came when starting point guard Jeremy Roach was out with a toe injury and the Devils have looked much better since he returned to the lineup.

Over its last three games, Duke has a 58.3 EFG% while turning the ball over on just 14.8% of its possessions. Sure, one of those games for Duke came in a rout of ACC cellar-dweller Georgia Tech, but it also shot the ball well against Wake Forest and Virginia Tech. 

With Filipowski, Lively, and Ryan Young, the Blue Devils have the size to neutralize North Carolina's best player, Armando Bacot, down low. They also have the perimeter defense to shut down UNC's already struggling outside shooters. Back the improving Blue Devils at home.

My best bet: Duke -3 (-110 at DraftKings)

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North Carolina vs Duke spread analysis

Both of these teams have failed to live up to expectations so far and are tied for sixth place in the ACC standings at 7-4 while sitting outside the AP Top 25. 

North Carolina is fresh off a 65-64 home loss to Pittsburgh on Wednesday. North Carolina's shooters went ice-cold in that contest shooting just 35% from the field and 59% from the charity stripe while going a pathetic 5-27 from long range.  That dropped North Carolina's record to 7-3 SU and 3-7 ATS in its last 10 games. 

Duke is coming off a 75-73 home victory against Wake Forest. It's a bit surprising that the score was so close when you consider that Duke shot 50% from the field while holding Wake to a 38 FG% and also had a plus-10 advantage on the boards. 

The Blue Devils are now a perfect 11-0 SU at home this season but they failed to cover the spread as 8-point faves and are just 1-7 ATS in their last eight contests. 

Bacot leads the Tar Heels with 17.7 points and 11.4 rebounds per game while shooting 56.6% from the field. Point guard R.J. Davis averages 16.0 ppg and a team-high 3.2 assists per game while shooting guard Caleb Love adds 16.5 ppg. That said, Love has a pathetic 38.5 FG% and is knocking down just 28.6% of his shots from long range. 

Duke has a young squad with the veteran Roach running the point with 12.2 ppg and 3.1 apg. All five of their highly-rated freshmen have become integral parts of the rotation although forward Dariq Whitehead is questionable for tonight and has missed the last two contests.

North Carolina vs Duke Over/Under analysis

The Over has cashed in seven straight meetings between these rivals and there's plenty of reason to think we'll see another high-scoring contest tonight. 

The Blue Devils play at a slow pace (269th in the country in adjusted tempo) but have been putting up points lately, dropping at least 75 points in their last three games. 

The Tar Heels play at a quick tempo and rank 66th in the country in average length of possession on offense. Despite their struggles from beyond the arc, they've also been better on offense than defense, ranking 29th in the nation in adjusted offensive efficiency while ranking 51st on defense. 

That has resulted in UNC ranking 26th in the country in scoring against Div 1 foes with 78.5 ppg but sitting outside the Top 200 with 71.7 ppg allowed.  

North Carolina vs Duke betting trend to know

The Tar Heels are 1-7-1 ATS in their last nine road games versus a team with a winning record at home. Find more college basketball betting trends for North Carolina vs. Duke.

North Carolina vs Duke game info

Location: Cameron Indoor Stadium, Durham, NC
Date: Saturday, February 4, 2023
Tip-off: 6:30 p.m. ET

North Carolina vs Duke key injuries

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