Duke Blue Devils vs. North Carolina Tar Heels Pick & Prediction MARCH 9th 2024

Monumental meetings between ACC neighbors and rivals North Carolina and Duke are par for the course, and the latest marquee matchup Saturday night pits No. 7 North Carolina visiting No. 9 Duke for the conference regular-season championship.

North Carolina (24-6, 16-3 ACC) aims for the outright title with a regular-season sweep of the Blue Devils (24-6, 15-4), who fell 93-84 last month in Chapel Hill. Duke can claim a piece of the title by winning, but the Blue Devils are 0-8 against the Tar Heels in head-to-head meetings in which North Carolina has had a chance to win the conference crown.

One of the two teams will grab the top seed for the ACC Tournament next week in Washington. If Duke wins Saturday and a tiebreaker is needed, that will be results of multiple games in the conference on the final day will be part of the equation. “We’re all coming together at the right time and it’s beautiful,” Duke guard Jeremy Roach said. This will be the 50th matchup when each team is ranked in the Top 10 – the most of any series in college basketball history. North Carolina has won 25 of 49, so Duke aims to tie that category up. North Carolina has at least a share of the ACC title for the 33rd time and the first time since 2019. “We talked about the opportunity to play Duke on Saturday and have a chance to win it outright,” Tar Heels coach Hubert Davis said. “We’re excited about preparing and playing against a Duke team that’s playing their best basketball thus far right now.” The Tar Heels have never notched more than 16 ACC regular-season wins. Duke’s 15 ACC victories marks one more than in coach Jon Scheyer’s first season last year. North Carolina capped a three-game homestand by blasting Notre Dame 84-51 on Tuesday night. That clinched at least a share of the title. “We haven’t hung a banner in five years when it comes to ACC regular season, so just to be able to do it is just a special feeling,” fifth-year player Armando Bacot said. Bacot had 25 points, Harrison Ingram posted 21 points and 13 rebounds, and RJ Davis added 17 points in the first matchup with Duke this season. Duke kept pace in the conference chase with three straight wins, including a 15-point win at North Carolina State on Monday night. “I think it says a lot about our toughness, our growth,” Scheyer said. “You have to keep getting better, though.” Jared McCain led Duke with 23 points in the first game with the Tar Heels, while Kyle Filipowski had 22 points and Roach added 20. Freshman Sean Stewart of Duke has played more recently with classmate Caleb Foster out with an injury. “As a freshman, the more you play, the more confidence you can get,” Scheyer said of Stewart. “We felt about halfway through the year, even earlier, Sean provides something that we don’t have. He’s our best athlete. His versatility on defense. His touch around the basket.” Stewart played only two minutes in the loss to North Carolina. Foster had just four points in 19 minutes. Duke won last season’s home game against the Tar Heels. But the last time the teams met in the regular-season finale in Durham, North Carolina upset Duke in the final home game for now-retired coach Mike Krzyzewski two years ago.

–Field Level Media

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