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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Tuesday, February 16, 2016 at 7:00 PM

One of the greatest rivalries in all of sports takes center stage Wednesday night for the first time in the 2015-16 college basketball season when #20 Duke visits #5 North Carolina in Chapel Hill. Duke has gotten hot after a midseason slump, and is playing some of the best basketball in the country the past two weeks. North Carolina recently lost at Notre Dame, and looked awful in a close win over horrible Boston College. So, this game could be more competitive than the rankings are suggesting.

On the other hand…the Las Vegas betting markets are still giving a lot of respect to the Tar Heels for a variety of matchup-related reasons. Let’s crunch some numbers for additional context in this must-see ESPN matchup…


ACC Standings

North Carolina 10-2

Virginia 10-4

Miami 9-3

Notre Dame 9-4

Duke 8-4

Louisville 8-4

Syracuse 8-5

Clemson 8-5

Pittsburgh 6-6

Everyone Else below .500

North Carolina is still at the top of the heap even with the loss to Notre Dame. Duke is in a precarious position where they could climb to 9-4 with a road upset…but fall to 8-5 with a loss. This could ultimately matter A LOT because the top four seeds in the ACC tournament get such a break. Of course, North Carolina is trying to lock in a #1 seed for both the ACC event and the Big Dance. They can’t afford another lethargic performance here.


Adjusted Offensive Efficiency

Duke: 121.9 per 100 possessions (#2 in the nation)

North Carolina: 118.4 per 100 possessions (#6 in the nation)

Looking at the publicly available efficiency numbers from college basketball guru Ken Pomeroy, both of these teams truly have elite offenses. Duke works it around the horn a bit more to exploit their three-point shooting. North Carolina is more interested in flying at the basket and earning free throws. When you adjust for strength of schedule and pace, both are offensive superpowers.


Adjusted Defensive Efficiency

Duke: 100.3 per 100 possessions (#109 in the nation)

North Carolina: 95.9 per 100 possessions (#40 in the nation)

Unfortunately, neither is a defensive superpower. North Carolina is disappointing at #40. That’s okay nationally but becomes a problem when the best teams play each other. Duke can’t even crack the top 100! This will set them up to lose early in the Dance unless they stay hot from the field themselves. Clear edge to Carolina on this side of the floor. And, if the refs get a bit whistle happy…that’s an even bigger edge because Duke has no depth. Carolina is hoping to hear a lot of whistles on their friendly home floor. Even though Duke’s recent form has improved, the betting markets know their defense could be in big trouble at this particular site vs. this particular offensive force.


Pace Ranking

Duke: #173

North Carolina: #37

You can see that Carolina flies at the basket at a relentless pace. Duke is about average this season…forced to slow down from Coach K’s preferred approach because of a lack of depth. The key to handicapping this game will be anticipating whether or not Duke can slow things down while avoiding foul trouble. They can WIN if they do that. They can lost by 20 if they don’t.


Against the Spread

Duke: 11-12-1

North Carolina: 10-14-1

It’s tough for these teams to post great ATS records because they’re always priced to perfection. Hyped teams get market respect. To the degree public money is involved in the market…squares want to bet these teams. So, it’s not a shock that we’re looking at 21-26-2 combined for the season. Duke didn’t even cover when they knocked off highly ranked Virginia on Saturday!

JIM HURLEY loves handicapping big rivalry games. That’s why he has such a great lifetime record in them! Of course, he never forces plays in TV games…so you’ll have to sign up for service Wednesday to see if this made the cut. Daily BEST BETS can always be purchased right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions about combination packages through March Madness or the NBA Playoffs, please call us in the office during normal business hours at 1-888-777-4155. The NBA is set to resume, which means even more on the board to attack!

After Duke/North Carolina, we have these great matchup previews coming up in the NOTEBOOK…

Thursday: Wisconsin at Michigan State in the Big 10

Friday-Saturday: Kentucky at Texas A&M Saturday in the SEC

Sunday: Cleveland at Oklahoma City in the NBA (Lebron vs. Durant and Westbrook!)

Monday: Virginia at Miami in the ACC

Tuesday-Wednesday: Villanova at Xavier Wednesday in the Big East

Wisconsin just stunned Maryland on the road, and is looking to make another statement vs. Sparty. Kentucky is absolutely on fire all of a sudden. And, how about that NBA showdown Sunday with some of the greatest stars in the league?

It’s a great time to be a basketball fan…and it’s a great time to be a client of JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK!


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Jim Hurley on twitter @vsm_hurley

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