USA TODAY Sports
Duke’s latest surge has it back in the Top 25 and pointed up in the ACC with six games left in the regular season. The Blue Devils will get a chance to prove their four-game winning streak is for real when they visit North Carolina on Wednesday for the latest chapter in the historic rivalry.
Duke is up to No. 19 in the latest rankings and recovered from its stretch of four losses in five games by knocking off back-to-back ranked teams last week to extend the winning streak to four. Grayson Allen played the hero with an off-balance, buzzer-beating bank shot in the 63-62 victory over Virginia on Saturday and ranks second in the ACC in scoring at an average of 20.6 points. The Tar Heels are up to No. 4 in the rankings and first place in the ACC after opening a three-game homestand by crushing Pittsburgh 85-64 on Sunday in a game that included 26 assists on 32 made field goals and five different scorers in double figures. “When you play with a lot of effort and a lot of energy, it becomes a lot more fun, and it just becomes a lot more easy on the defensive end,” North Carolina forward Brice Johnson told reporters. “Everyone is just flying around and playing great together.”
TV: 9 p.m. ET, ESPN
LINE HISTORY: North Carolina opened as 6.5-point home faves against rival Duke. The total is currently off the board.
Duke – F A. Jefferson (out indefinitely, foot).
North Carolina – No injuries to report.
ABOUT DUKE (19-6, 11-12-1 TAS, 12-12 O/U): The Blue Devils had a chance to win on the final play against Virginia thanks to a solid effort on the glass and a solid defensive effort down the stretch. It was a continuation of an uptick in effort that has been noticeable of late. “There are certain portions of the game where I don’t care how you draw up your offense or defense, you just have to be tough,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski told reporters about the team’s change in attitude. “You have to fight through tired, fight through somebody not playing as well and get them going at that point. … We’ve talked about it, we’ve met on it, and they’re doing it now. It has paid off.”
ABOUT NORTH CAROLINA (21-4, 10-14-1 ATS, 14-11 O/U): Tar Heels sophomore forward Justin Jackson failed to score in double figures in six of eight games before breaking out of the slump in the last two contests. Jackson went 9-of-11 from the field as North Carolina pulled out a 68-65 win at Boston College on Feb. 9 and burned Pittsburgh for 14 more points on Sunday. “I started to shoot it like I knew it was going in,” Jackson told reporters. “So I think I definitely relaxed a little bit, and it’s just a different attitude honestly. Just going out there and trying to have fun instead of just going out there and feeling like I have to do something.”
* Duke is 4-1 ATS in its last five meetings at North Carolina.
* Underdog is 5-1 ATS in the last six meetings.
* Under is 6-2 in the last eight meetings at North Carolina.
* Under is 4-0 in North Carolina’s last four games overall.
COVERS CONSENSUS: Early on the public is backing North Carolina in the Tobacco Road rivalry, with 59 percent of wagers on the Tar Heels.