WEATHER PERMITTING, NORTH CAROLINA AND DUKE RENEW THEIR STORIED RIVALRY WEDNESDAY NIGHT

The bitter cold that’s gripping the Mid-Atlantic is going to bring uncharacteristically frigid temperatures to Durham, North Carolina over the next few nights. Not a great time to stay out in a tent trying to get basketball tickets! Weather permitting, Duke and North Carolina will renew their storied college basketball rivalry Wednesday night at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN.

It’s very hard to get a true read on these teams in terms of the national championship race because they haven’t been able to sustain high levels of play. Duke has done a better job of that…which is why they rank higher in the polls and the bracket projections. But, college basketball guru Ken Pomeroy only has them at #8 nationally in his current rankings (Jeff Sagarin of USA Today has them at #4).

Duke is 22-3 right now with some impressive scalps. But, their defense still comes and goes. North Carolina is a bit further down the ladder, but is an unimpressive 2-5 vs. Sagarin’s top 25. If the ACC is overrated this year (as is often the case), then BOTH could underachieve in the Dance (which they often do!). But, if Duke has turned a corner after early ACC upsets at the hands of Miami and North Carolina State, the Blue Devils could conceivable go deep in what is shaping up as a weak national field from spots 10-50 in the ratings.

This is clearly the best matchup of the week in college hoops…and arguably the best in the month of February given the magnitude of the rivalry…and the fast pace that these teams play. You’ll be watching. Let’s see what JIM HURLEY’S key indicators stats are saying about this must-see TV (weather permitting!).

Adjusted Offensive Efficiency
N. C. : 116.2.0 per 100 possessions (#11 in the nation)
Duke: 121.0 per 100 possessions (#2 in the nation)

You’re about to see that these teams are virtual clones of each other…with Duke being slightly better on both sides of the floor. In fact, Duke is better than everybody but Wisconsin in terms of scoring points on a per-possession basis. That’s because they can hit treys…but also earn free throws when they attack the basket and get friendly in-conference officiating. North Carolina doesn’t hit treys consistently, but they are better than most of the nation in terms of efficiency (numbers for all board teams can be seen for free at Pomeroy’s website and other spots). Edge to Duke…but obviously potential for excitement.

Adjusted Defensive Efficiency
N. C.: 96.5 per 100 possessions (#67 in the nation)
Duke: 95.3 per 100 possessions (#57 in the nation)

Disappointing numbers considering the caliber of athletes. Those just aren’t the kinds of defensive performances that help you string together wins in March. They place too much of a burden on your own offenses to score. And, when games slow down into “playoff style” basketball, opposing offenses are able to consistently get good looks. Again, Duke has the better ranking. But, this is a strike against both that will likely batter in the brackets next month. This is why Pomeroy doesn’t have Duke contending for a #1 seed.

Pace Ranking
N. C.: #14
Duke: #60

Wow…a VERY fast game is in store unless everyone’s too cold to run! North Carolina is one of the fastest teams in the nation…while Duke is faster than most major college programs. This is why you have to watch…there will be few games more entertaining this year than Duke/Carolina unless it’s a surprisingly easy blowout for one or the other.

Against the Spread
N. C.: 12-12-1 (14-8-1 to the Over)
Duke: 13-11-1 (14-9-1 to the Over)

Here’s another vote for excitement. Both teams skew Over! It’s very hard for big name programs to cover pointspreads consistently because they’re always priced to perfection. But, totals are another story. NC and Duke are a combined 28-17-2 to the Over so far even though they have up-tempo reputations.

Carolina/Duke may or may not be part of the Wednesday card depending on how the lines settle and what other opportunities are in play. You can purchase the final word for Wednesday right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions, call us in the office at 1-800-323-4453 any time during normal business hours.

Wall-to-wall basketball continues Thursday. Here’s what’s ahead over the next seven days in the NOTEBOOK…

Thursday: College Basketball Preview…Temple at SMU in the AAC
Friday: Early Look…Iowa State at Texas in the Big 12
Saturday: College Basketball GameDay…UCLA at Arizona in the Pac 12
Sunday: College Basketball…Evansville at Wichita State in the Missouri Valley
Monday: College Basketball…Louisville at Georgia Tech in the ACC
Tuesday: College Basketball…Wisconsin at Maryland in the Big 10
Wednesday: College Basketball…Baylor at Iowa State in the Big 12

February is flying by! Valentine’s is already in the rear-view mirror…which means March Madness is coming up right around the bend. Visit us daily for great handicapping tips for the most important matchups. Everything you learn now will pay off multiple times the rest of the month and through the tourneys. Take advantage of our exclusive TEAM HANDICAPPING approach on these pages and with BEST BETS from JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK!

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Jim Hurley on twitter @vsm_hurley
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