North Carolina - Duke Preview
THE RIVALRY RENEWED: NORTH CAROLINA VISITS DUKE WEDNESDAY NIGHT
It may not be the slobberknocker that sports bettors and college basketball fans have grown accustomed to. Duke is seen as being the superior team this year by a few points in the Power Ratings...and this game is in Durham, where the Blue Devils have been posting some very impressive results once again. But, this is often a rivalry where home court doesn't matter because BOTH teams bring peak intensity wherever the game is played.
Can North Carolina score a road shocker, and make a case for themselves as a dangerous darhorse in the Big Dance? Or, will Duke re-establish its supremacy, knowing that a big win here may be just enough to nudge them past Indiana to be the undisputed #1 team in the country?
Let's put this much anticipated meeting through our indicator gauntlet, with a particular eye on what's gone wrong for North Carolina this season. We've talked a lot about Duke already...and the issues they're likely to have away from home in March when friendly officiating isn't helping them in games where their treys aren't falling. North Carolina was humbled this past weekend at Miami. Are the Heels destined to be a big disappointment all season?
N. Carolina: 16-7 (6-4 in the ACC)
Duke: 21-2 (8-2 in the ACC)
As hard as we are on Duke (they deserve it), they only have two losses this year. It was almost a third the other night to lowly Boston College. But, that was on the road. Duke enters with the better record overall and in league play. North Carolina does have some impressive wins (particularly at home), but is currently slated to be a non-entity in the Dance...potentially even a one-and done team suffering a quick exit.
N. Carolina: #28 with Sagarin, #46 with Pomeroy
Duke: #5 with Sagarin, #6 with Pomeroy
Duke is likely to get a #1 or #2 seed in the Dance because the pollsters and the computers all see them as a top eight team (in our indicator data here in the NOTEBOOK, we use the publicly available numbers from Jeff Sagarin at USA Today and college basketball guru Ken Pomeroy). Even if they lose again to Miami, or drop another ACC game...the resume is that strong in a year where all the other top teams are dropping games too. North Carolina is in a tricky spot. One computer has them in the top 30, while the other has them in danger of falling out of the top 50 if they lose Wednesday Night as an underdog. If machines can't agree, how can humans get the right read?!
COMPUTER STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE RANKINGS
N. Carolina: #32 with Sagarin, #36 with Pomeroy
Duke: #4 with Sagarin, #3 with Pomeroy
There's more agreement here with the computers. North Carolina has played a top 40 schedule, and has performed well enough to make it look like they're a tournament caliber team. Duke scheduled tough early in the season (when they're preparation and coaching offers the biggest edge), which has allowed them to create a blockbuster resume to this point. You regular readers know that late season games away from their home floor typically expose the illusions that were created in friendlier times.
WON-LOST RECORDS VS. SAGARIN'S TOP 50
N. Carolina: 1-6
This is where Carolina takes a bad hit, with a performance that really casts doubt on whether they should go to the tournament. They've established that they can't beat tournament caliber teams! If they lose Thursday as underdogs, they fall to 1-7 in this category. North Carolina is so talented that they can dominate lesser lights on sheer athleticism alone. Maybe that will come into play here, because Duke can have trouble with athleticism. Clearly a sense of urgency for Carolina if they want to get seeded for the top 32. You can't make a team a #6 or #7 seed if they lose all of their games vs. quality.
JOE LUNARDI'S BRACKETOLOGY
N. Carolina: projected #11 seed
Duke: projected #1 seed
Some fans were surprised when the most recent edition of ESPN's bracketology had North Carolina way down at a #11 seed. You've seen today why that might be fair. We have them a shade higher in our own proprietary projections...but only for something in the 8-9 range right now. They would be LOADED for a #11 seed in terms of blue chip talent. Will that talent ever figure out how to win big games?
POMEROY'S ADJUSTED OFFENSE RANKINGS
N. Carolina: #55
Moving now to the chess match, we begin with our general reminder that Duke DOES play to its great math projections at home...where three-point shooting is easier and officiating friendlier, while often falling well below expectations on the road. We talked about that last week for NC State/Duke, and the Blue Devils exploded for 58 points in the first half on the way to a big number. Duke in Cameron equals an offensive power. North Carolina has been a disappointment on this side of the ball, particularly when they have to run plays against good teams. Hey, these guys can fly around and dunk on bad teams! Put them in a halfcourt set and it gets ugly. Probably a big edge to Duke in this category Wednesday.
POMEROY'S ADJUSTED DEFENSE RANKINGS
N. Carolina: #48
Edge to Duke again, but not quite as big because they are more vulnerable on this side of the floor. It will probably come down to how often Duke can force Carolina to run a play. If they cut off the transition game, then Duke will play to that #20 ranking or even better. If not, then things could get very interesting indeed.
POMEROY'S ADJUSTED TEMPO RANKINGS
N. Carolina: #4
You can see what we mean about transition, and how Carolina benefits from flying around against lesser teams. They're the fourth fastest team in the country! Remember that Pomeroy measures over 300 teams in his analysis. Carolina is a team of sprinters. Duke is actually pretty fast by national standards (to the degree the 35-second shot clock allows differences), but is slow compared to Carolina. The tempo in NC State/Duke was to the Blue Devils' liking. Here, they may actually prefer to slow things down a bit so they don't play right into the hands of the only thing Carolina really does well.
JIM HURLEY loves handicapping the rivalry games, regardless of whether it's basketball or football, college or pro. He knows intensity is going to be high. That allows you to emphasize certain elements of handicapping, while de-emphasizing others. He may well have a very big play in this one on his Wednesday slate. Look at all of these other great options!
#3 Miami of Florida at Florida State (another big rivalry game!)
#6 Syracuse at Connecticut (ditto from the Big East!)
Central Florida at #22 Memphis (looming large in CUSA)
San Diego State at #24 Colorado State (Rams running hot in Mountain West!)
Creighton at Northern Iowa (Missouri Valley tightening up)
Chicago at Boston in the NBA
Denver at Brooklyn
Houston at the LA Clippers
You can purchase Wednesday's best bets right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions, call us in the office at 1-800-323-4453. Representatives are standing by to help you find the right seasonal package for your individual needs.
Back with you tomorrow to study the "game of the year" in the West Coast Conference...Gonzaga at St. Mary's. There are marquee matchups every night through the month! And, we'll have the information you need to make informed choices right here in the NOTEBOOK.
By now you're feeling the buzz...you're feeling the excitement...you're ready to ride down THE ROAD TO MARCH MADNESS with the best handicapper in the business...JIM HURLEY!
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