On Sunday afternoon, plenty is at stake for Duke: A rivalry win, a conference title and a season undefeated within Cameron Indoor Stadium all hang in the balance. With North Carolina set to visit the Blue Devils at 12 p.m. Sunday for the regular-season finale, our beat writers make their predictions.
Em Adler: Duke 58-55
North Carolina has been quite mediocre for most of its games following the first Tobacco Road meeting, but much of that was due to missing both its best player and its best shooter in Alyssa Ustby and Eva Hodgson, respectively. The Tar Heels were healthy Thursday and nearly beat No. 9 Virginia Tech. But the Hokies are a better matchup for them, and Duke only lost to North Carolina, in Chapel Hill, with Celeste Taylor a non-factor, by just six points, and the Blue Devil offense has only looked better since. I’ll side with Duke (and the under).
Leah Boyd: Duke 55-53
It’ll be Duke, but it will not be as pretty as Duke fans love a victory over North Carolina to be. The last meetup between the two teams would have potentially ended in Duke’s favor if the first quarter, well, did not happen. The opening frame featured eight missed shots, eight fouls and eight turnovers from Duke. A big turnout from the Cameron Crazies could alleviate some of the jitters Duke showed in front of a packed Carmichael Arena, but if the same uncharacteristic shakes that hurt Duke against Virginia and Virginia Tech come to light, I might be wrong twice this season.
Dom Fenoglio: Duke 57-52
In order to complete the season undefeated at home, the Blue Devils will need a complete performance on both ends of the court. Duke has more to lose than Carolina has to gain, which always spells a tricky matchup. While the Blue Devils may struggle to find the bottom of the net at points, they will ultimately pull away thanks to their defense, the very reason they are 24-4.
Martin Heintzelman: North Carolina 60-57
Duke is coming in with a lot of momentum, having just beaten N.C. State in dominant fashion Thursday. That being said, this is simply an opportunity too big for the Tar Heels to pass up. It will be a chance for North Carolina to ruin an undefeated season at home and play spoiler in a huge rivalry game. Duke should win, but the Tar Heels will.
Ranjan Jindal: Duke 65-61
The Blue Devils are coming off arguably their most complete game of the ACC slate, scoring 77 points against a great, albeit banged-up N.C. State team. This will be a challenge with the return of Utsby as well as Duke’s first look at star freshman guard Kayla McPherson. The Tar Heels are very talented across the board, but Duke’s size advantage will be crucial. In addition, I believe the home crowd will propel the Blue Devils to victory in a close rivalry contest.
Sophie Levenson: Duke 66-58
The Blue Devils are riding on the comfortable cushion of a 24-4 record, headlined by deep talent that just gets better with every game. Sure, one of those unlucky four games was against their Tobacco Road rival, but Sunday will not be happening in Chapel Hill. This home matchup also comes much later in the season, and head coach Kara Lawson’s dynamic lineup has more experience dealing with tricky ACC opponents. An eight-point win might not be too difficult for the Blue Devils to close out their regular season.
Garrett Spooner: Duke 58-51
Although Duke scored an ACC-play-high of 77 points in its last contest against N.C. State, expect this one to be quite different. In Chapel Hill earlier this year, the Blue Devils had just 13 field goals against North Carolina in their close 61-56 loss. Defense was the name of the game then, and it will stay the same Sunday afternoon. To come out with a victory in front of what surely will be a tightly packed Cameron Indoor Stadium, Duke’s leaders — Taylor, Shayeann Day-Wilson and Elizabeth Balogun — will need to show up on both sides of the ball.
Mackenzie Sheehy: Duke 61-58
Duke has had a historic season, and a win against North Carolina would be icing on the cake. Defying expectations, the Blue Devils are currently tied atop the ACC and have taken down perennial powerhouses like N.C. State and Notre Dame. That being said, the Tar Heels will not go down without a fight, and no Duke-North Carolina game is ever simple. The Blue Devils must have a complete game with superior play on both ends of the courts, but they are capable of running North Carolina out of Cameron Indoor. With the Crazies cheering them on and an undefeated home record to protect, Duke can achieve victory.
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Leah Boyd is a Pratt senior and a social chair of The Chronicle's 118th volume. She was previously editor-in-chief for Volume 117.