Duke freshman Jahlil Okafor receives his first opportunity to experience the school’s rivalry with North Carolina when the No. 5 Blue Devils host the No. 16 Tar Heels on Wednesday. The standout has nine double-doubles and also became the fourth Duke freshman with 10 or more 20-point games in a season when he had 23 points and 13 rebounds in last Saturday’s 80-72 win over Syracuse. The Blue Devils have won five straight games while the Tar Heels have lost three of four.
Slumping North Carolina is tied for fourth place in the tough ACC and is coming off an 89-76 loss to Pittsburgh on Saturday in which it allowed the Panthers to shoot 64.9 percent from the field. The Tar Heels are playing their third consecutive road game – though this one is the short bus ride from Chapel Hill to Durham – and fourth in five games. Duke is hard to beat at home, going 11-1 with the lone loss occurring against Miami on Jan. 13.
TV: 9 p.m. ET, ESPN, ACC Network
LINE HISTORY: Offshore books opened at Duke -9.
INJURY REPORT: UNC – G Theo Pinson (Out-Foot) Duke – N/A
WHAT CAPPERS SAY: “North Carolina is really struggling right now; the Tar Heels are just 1-3 SU over their last four games. Since the start of 2015, North Carolina has been burning money as they are just 3-8-1 ATS, including 0-4 ATS when they lose a game straight-up. They were underdogs in two of those games, so the trend is somewhat relevant to this game since they are getting points. Duke is a young team that has been inconsistent this season. The Blue Devils are not as good as their 22-3 SU record indicates. Overall, Duke has a +15.4 point differential this season. But in conference games in 2015, Duke only has a +6.6 point differential which clearly shows that the Blue Devils’ play has been significantly worse against better competition. This series hasn’t been close in recent years as the average winning margin has been 11.8 points per game during the past five meetings.” – Covers Expert Steve Merril
WHAT BOOKS SAY: “The old adage gets tossed around loosely but this is a rivalry where you can throw everything out the window. We all know that UNC is slumping at the moment, but there will be no shortage of motivation for this marquee matchup. That said, the defense will have to be flying around the perimeter to keep Duke’s shooters at bay, and that has been a very suspect area for the Tar Heels this year. We will need to be high on the Devils’ side to entice dog money.” – John Lester, Lines Manager at Bookmaker.eu
ABOUT NORTH CAROLINA (18-7 SU, 12-12-1 ATS, 14-8-1 O/U): Guard Marcus Paige continues to play through a foot ailment and it caught up to him against Pittsburgh when he had just eight points to end a streak of six consecutive double-digit outings. Paige leads the Tar Heels in scoring (13.9), 3-point baskets (60) and steals (35) while forwards Brice Johnson (12.5 points, team-best 7.8 rebounds) and Kennedy Meeks (12.4 points, 7.6 excel in the frontcourt. Forward Isaiah Hicks recently moved into the starting lineup and scored a career-best 21 points against Boston College on Feb. 7 but tallied only five points in the loss to Pittsburgh.
ABOUT DUKE (22-3 SU, 13-11-1 ATS, 14-9 O/U): Guard Quinn Cook has scored in double digits in seven of the last eight games, including a season-best 26 points against Florida State en route to winning ACC Player of the Week honors. Cook is averaging 14.8 points – second behind Okafor (18.2 points, team-best 9.3 rebounds) – and has made 65 3-pointers, knocking down at least one in 35 consecutive games, tied for second in school history with J.J. Redick (2006). Guard Justise Winslow (11.4) and point guard Tyus Jones (11.3 points, 5.3 assists) also average in double digits.
*Tar Heels are 2-8-1 ATS in their last 11 games overall.
*Over is 6-1 in Blue Devils last 7 home games.
*Road team is 11-4 ATS in the last 15 meetings.
*Under is 9-3 in the last 12 meetings.
COVERS CONSENSUS: 62.08 percent of Covers users are backing UNC +9.