Whenever North Carolina and Duke meet, it's one of the greatest rivalries in sports and there is always a lot on the line. Saturday there might be even more at stake than usual as the storied programs prepare to square off for the first time this season. Instead of the usual prizes of bragging rights and ACC positioning, to the identities of both programs is up for grabs this time as both teams jostle for positioning on the NCAA Tournament bubble.
Ranked No. 55 in the NET, UNC (11-6, 6-4 ACC) enters the meeting as one of the "First Four Out" of the most recent bracket projection from CBS Sports Bracketology Expert Jerry Palm. At No. 66 in the NET, Duke (7-6, 5-4) is squarely on the wrong side of the bubble, having lost four of six games entering the meeting. Perhaps no better statistic summarizes the combined struggles of these blue blood programs than this: this will be their first meeting in which neither is ranked since 1960.
But it's still Duke vs. North Carolina and Mike Krzyzewski vs. Roy Williams. Even without fans in the stands or rankings next to their names, it's a showdown of paramount significance to both programs that will go a long way toward deciding who secures a bit of much-needed momentum heading into the final weeks of the regular season.
Itching for more college hoops analysis? Listen below and subscribe to the Eye on College Basketball podcast where we take you beyond the hardwood with insider information and instant reactions.
- When: Saturday, 6 p.m. ET
- Where: Cameron Indoor Stadium in Durham, North Carolina
- TV: ESPN| Live stream: fuboTV (Try for free)
- LIVE updates: CBSSports.com
Duke: The Blue Devils are coming off a deflating 77-75 loss at Miami that snapped a four-game losing streak for the Hurricanes and ended a two-game winning streak for Duke, just when Duke appeared to be turning a corner. Sophomore forward Matthew Hurt and freshman forward Jalen Johnson are offensively dynamic players who can challenge a defense in different ways. But both will be challenged against UNC's gargantuan front line. Another player to watch is freshman guard Jeremy Roach, who was averaging 11.1 points per game through nine games before going most silent over the last couple weeks.
North Carolina: Clemson had lost four of five games before silencing UNC 63-50 on Tuesday in what amounted to the Tar Heels' lowest scoring game of the season by 16 points. The loss snapped a three-game winning streak for the Tar Heels and renewed questions about their offensive potential. UNC ranks 33rd nationally in made 3-pointers per game with just 5.1 and 294th in 3-point percentage at 30.2%. The strength of this team is in the post, where the trio of Armando Bacot, Garrison Brooks and Day'Ron Sharpe — all 6-foot-10 or taller — bring size, toughness and plenty of interior scoring.
Game prediction, pick
Homecourt advantage isn't what it normally is, but Duke has won four straight at home and should be plenty amped up to keep that streak alive against its archival. UNC's lack of 3-point shooting gives it a small margin for error, and if the Blue Devils can get to nine or more 3-pointers, they should be able to outscore their visitors without needing last-second heroics. Prediction: Duke 71, North Carolina 64
So who wins every college basketball game today? And which underdogs pull off stunning upsets? Visit SportsLine now to get picks for every game, all from the unbiased model that simulates every game 10,000 times, and find out.