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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Wednesday, February 8, 2012 at 12:43 PM

It’s either the biggest rivalry in college basketball, or the most overhyped rivalry in the history of mankind. Maybe it’s both…because nobody can argue about the longterm success of these programs. Yet, ESPN has OBVIOUSLY been overdoing its advertising for these teams for well over a decade.

When Coach K won a landmark game earlier this season, you’d have thought the Pope landed on the moon the way ESPN covered it. Truth is, you’re not likely to hear the following sentence during game previews:

“Duke visits North Carolina Wednesday Night on ESPN as both teams try to keep pace in the ACC with first place Florida State.”

What? Neither North Carolina nor Duke is even in first place at the moment? How did THAT happen?!


Florida State: 7-1 (owns tie-breaker with win over NC)

North Carolina: 7-1

Duke: 6-2

NC State: 6-3

Virginia: 5-3

Miami: 5-3

Duke would also be 7-1 with a loss to Florida State, but they were stunned by Miami this past Sunday. That’s now TWO home losses for Duke…a team that was supposedly indestructible at home (except when playing North Carolina).

In head-to-head meetings at the top:

Florida State beat North Carolina 90-57

Florida State beat Duke 76-73 on the road

Both of those games caused Dick Vitale’s head to explode, particularly NC/FSU since he was wearing a Carolina blue dress shirt to call the game in Tallahassee. Before the season started, ESPN’s website ran an article asking whether or not the Tar Heels might go undefeated this season. Nice, reasonable, unbiased reporting there on a team destined to lose to Florida State by 33 points.

We’ve been guiding you this season with references to the respected online computer ratings of college basketball guru Ken Pomeroy, and MIT computer whiz Jeff Sagarin (of USA Today). Let’s see how those guys have rated the ACC teams we just listed.


North Carolina (8th in Pomeroy, 6th in Sagarin)

Duke (15th in Pomeroy, 11h in Sagarin)

Florida State (17th in Pomeroy, 29th in Sagarin)

Virginia: (19th in Pomeroy, 23rd in Sagarin

Miami: (52nd in Pomeroy, 54th in Sagarin

NC State (61st in Pomeroy, 55th in Sagarin)

At least the ACC isn’t just a “big two” this year with a lot of pretenders. Florida State and Virginia are both getting solid computer respect…with both in line to get top five seeds if the selection committee pays more attention to Pomeroy than Sagarin. Miami is still on the NCAA Tournament bubble, but that road win at Duke is going to look great on the resume. NC State has been outclassed to often to take seriously at the moment. Though, they do deserve credit for grinding out wins versus those below them.

So, even though the standings currently have Florida State at the top of the ACC with that 7-1 record…the computers still rate North Carolina-Duke as the most important matchup in the league. Let’s see what some of Pomeroy’s key categories say about tonight’s meeting in Chapel Hill.


North Carolina: 14th

Duke: 91st

Whoa…Duke ranks 91st in defense?!! This is a team that usually creates the illusion of good defense by building leads then watching their opponents miss desperation treys. This year’s team just doesn’t know how to shut people down. Part of the problem is the bench…which has blown several big leads this year. The last 10 minutes of every game either features tired starters or a bad bench…and that kills your defensive potential.

North Carolina grades out well. They always have a better defense than people realize because a fast tempo disguises what they’re doing. The Tar Heels are probably better than you think defensively. But, they’re not truly elite as many championship hopefuls grade out better in this stat. Once you get to the Sweet 16, ranking 14th in defensive efficiency doesn’t wow that many people (and, Florida State is 5th in the nation, to give you some ACC context).


Duke: 5th in the nation

North Carolina: 18th in the nation

Duke does grade out well here. But, we want to emphasize that this stat is often a red herring for the Blue Devils come tournament time. They have a knack for maximizing both three-point and one-point production against lesser opposition (solid shooting from behind the arc and officiating that’s way too friendly). That usually disappears in the Dance, though it didn’t in the championship year against Butler. Just remember how Duke disappeared against teams like Arizona and Villanova in years sandwiched around the title run.

North Carolina has great athletes…but this really isn’t a great ranking for them considering how good they’re SUPPOSED to be. The coach emphasizes an attacking offense with great athletes. That should yield a lot of free throw opportunities that increase efficiency. If you’re thinking about 300+ college teams, that’s obviously happening. If you’re thinking about the dozen or so teams on the short list of potential champions, it’s not so good. Ranking ahead of Carolina in adjusted offensive efficiency at the moment are: Missouri, Florida, Indiana, Kentucky, Duke, Syracuse, Baylor, Kansas, and Ohio State.

Right now, you just can’t assume that Duke and North Carolina are going to be there at the end in terms of the Dance. The losses to Florida State weren’t flukes…and weren’t a sign that Florida State is a hidden top four team.


North Carolina: 5th

Duke: 68th

This should be a run-and-gun game, particularly with the home team being so fast. Hosts usually have more impact on the preferred tempo than visitors do. Duke may try to slow things down in hopes of staying in the game. Just remember that over 300 teams in Pomeroy’s database. We’re talking about fast playing very fast in this showdown.

JIM HURLEY knows you love winning TV games…and often has TV Parlays or TV Triple Crowns on the busy Wednesday schedules. There’s a good chance that Duke-North Carolina will show up in the mix tonight. We’re also looking at Georgetown-Syracuse, Kansas-Baylor, Notre Dame-West Virginia, and Cincinnati-St. John’s amongst the marquee games. Of course, the Wednesday schedules are so huge that an off-the-radar game could turn out to be the biggest release of the night.

In the NBA, a loaded card includes Miami-Orlando, San Antonio-Philadelphia, Indiana-Atlanta, Dallas-Denver, and Houston-Portland. Oddsmakers have struggled with the NBA anyway this year. They’re likely to have even more trouble pinning down the right numbers when the college schedules are so huge.

You can purchase our top Wednesday plays right here at the website with your credit card. Or, call the office at 1-800-323-4453. We have great rates for the rest of the season that offer the most bang for your buck. You’ll have the full season price paid off with your winners from the next few days.

This is a GREAT week to sign up for service. You know tonight’s schedule is loaded. Thursday brings games like Stanford-UCLA and St. Mary’s-Gonzaga (along with Lakers-Celtics in the NBA). Everyone’s looking forward to Michigan State-Ohio State Saturday in the Big 10, on a day with about a half a dozen truly marquee matchups. Football may be over…but there’s still money to be made every day!

Back with you Thursday to preview Lakers-Celtics on TNT and talk some more NBA. Be sure you’re with us in the NOTEBOOK every day so you know what’s REALLY happening in college and pro basketball!

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