It's Duke against North Carolina. Coach K's last time in the Dean Dome. Hubert Davis' first time as head coach in the rivalry. Should we go on? As ESPN basketball analyst Jay Bilas says, this matchup always delivers, and our beats did their best at predicting the outcome of the first installment of this year's series. Saturday's game is set to tip off at 7 p.m. in Chapel Hill.
Jake: Duke 84-76
Here we go. It’s finally time for the first of the two scheduled Duke-North Carolina matchups in Coach K’s final year. I’m expecting Paolo Banchero to have his way from every spot on the floor on the offensive side and this Duke defense will have enough leftover from its stellar display against Notre Dame to stop North Carolina from scoring when it needs to. I do think Tar Heel big Armando Bacot is going to have a solid night, with another double-double to go along with his 17, but that’s not gonna be enough for North Carolina head coach Hubert Davis to get his first win in the rivalry.
Max: Duke 85-73
These two teams have won a combined eight straight, so clearly both are peaking at the ideal time. Bacot has been a double-double machine since opening night, so Mark Williams has to bring his A-game if Duke has any intention of limiting the Tar Heels’ second-chance opportunities. On the perimeter, whether Jeremy Roach can control the pace and direct this offensive attack—the Virginia native is averaging 6.4 assists against a single turnover over his last five contests—is the key. Defensively, Roach and the rest of the backcourt have their hands full with Caleb Love and RJ Davis, a pair that figures to come out guns blazing early. At the end of the day though, 24 hours from now the debate will be how the duo of Banchero and Wendell Moore Jr. led a charge over the final 20 minutes, turning an otherwise tight matchup into a comfortable Blue Devil win.
Alex: Duke 86-84
Duke’s offense has really been coming into its own recently (discounting the Notre Dame showing) and North Carolina’s best side of the ball has been the offensive end this year, so I have this game reaching some pretty high scoring digits. There’s no question that the Blue Devils are the better team this year, but I feel as though people have been writing off the Tar Heels as a “bad” team—they are 16-6, second in the ACC and most importantly, 12-0 at home. Duke has struggled on the road all year long and it’s entering the most hostile environment the team will face all year. While we all agree Duke will win, I think this game will be much closer than many might think.
Evan: Duke 82-74
On paper, you may see a top-10 national title contender taking on an unranked bubble team. But like usual, this game is prime to be much closer than the rankings indicate. North Carolina is riding high on a four-game win streak, has a roster that can match up with anybody and will surely show up to play in Coach K’s final visit to the Dean Dome. In the end, however, Duke has proven that it’s the superior team this season, and I expect that to become obvious down the stretch. Expect Banchero and Moore to make their presence felt when the game reaches crunch time.
Glen: Duke 77-71
No. 9 Duke is the huge favorite for Coach K’s final game at the Dean Dome, there is no question about that. But North Carolina has the habit of competing with Duke even when it shouldn’t. This year seems no different. Bacot is likely to outmuscle Duke 7-footer Mark Williams. Last season, Love got the better of Roach during both of their meetings. Roach has made improvements on offense, but a repeat performance could be in order on the other side of the ball. Paolo Banchero and company have given Duke the talent and depth to win by a landslide. Still, North Carolina could keep it close, and maybe do more than that.
Sasha: Duke 76-74
Don’t count your chickens before they hatch. Especially for Duke’s first game against North Carolina. Don’t think that just because the Tar Heels had some struggles this year that they won’t bring their A-game. If Bacot has his way in the paint and Love gets hot, this will be a close game. Duke is the better team so they’ll pull out a win, but North Carolina knows this is it’s biggest game so they’re going to show up to it. If anything can make this a close one, it’s the rivalry.
Micah: Duke 78-64
While Duke is the better team on paper, every game against North Carolina—especially on the road—will be close. Bacot has been dominant, but I’m not too high on the rest of their roster, meaning it will come down to how Duke does against the big man. The Blue Devils will take their shots, Banchero will take over, and Duke can run away with a win with decent backcourt play and staying out of foul trouble. This one could end up as Duke’s to lose.
Jonathan: Duke 71-68
So much of the buzz surrounding Saturday night’s game in Chapel Hill concerns the coaching battle on the sidelines, but there are plenty of other enticing matchups to keep an eye out for: Bacot and Williams, Moore against high school teammate Leaky Black, Banchero versus everybody and an underrated bench battle highlight some of the other things to be excited for ahead of Saturday’s tipoff in the Dean Dome. All that should combine to keep these teams close—as they always seem to be—until late in the second half, but in the end, Duke is the far more talented side, and with a little jolt from Banchero and Moore, should be the team to transcend all the noise and head back down the 15-501 win in hand.
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Max Rego is a Trinity senior and an associate sports editor for The Chronicle's 118th volume. He was previously sports managing editor for Volume 117.
Jake Piazza is a Trinity senior and was sports editor of The Chronicle's 117th volume.
Sasha Richie is a Trinity senior and a sports managing editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume.
Micah Hurewitz is a Trinity junior and a sports managing editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume.
Jonathan Levitan is a Trinity junior and sports editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume.