Beats picks: Will Duke women's basketball sweep North Carolina at regular-season closer in Chapel Hill?

Taina Mair stares down the defense during Duke's win against N.C. State.
Taina Mair stares down the defense during Duke's win against N.C. State.

The Blue Devils head to Chapel Hill Sunday afternoon for a vital rivalry clash against North Carolina, looking for both a season sweep and a boost in seeding for the ACC tournament. The Chronicle's beat writers are here to offer their predictions of how Duke will fare:

Martin Heintzelman: North Carolina 65-61

This is bound to be another close one, like the last five matchups have been. Because of both the rivalry and the level of parity between the two teams as of late, it seems that neither one will manage to gain the edge. The Blue Devils managed to come back late and win the last one in overtime, but look for a revenge game from the home team. Backed by a raucous home crowd and with the added incentive of ACC tournament implications, look for North Carolina to escape with a narrow victory at home. 

Colton Schwabe: Duke 68-66

These teams’ last meeting in Cameron Indoor Stadium emphasized the madness that comes with the rivalry game. Since that matchup, though, the Blue Devils have been rolling. Tasked with four straight games against ranked opponents, head coach Kara Lawson’s squad kept close with Notre Dame and Virginia Tech before taking down a ranked Syracuse on the road and ranked N.C. State at home. The Tar Heels also added the beatdown of the Wolfpack to their resume in the time between the Tobacco Road tilts, but coming off a loss against Boston College, North Carolina’s boost in confidence hasn’t been nearly as convincing as Duke’s. I believe that the Blue Devils will come out of the Carmichael Arena dogfight on top.

Caleb Dudley: North Carolina 59-54

These games always come down to the wire, and I expect no different Sunday. It took a major comeback for Lawson’s squad to pull out a win during the first meeting this season, and the crowd will absolutely not be aiding Duke’s efforts this time around. A sold-out Carmichael Arena will likely be one of, if not the most hostile environments this young Duke team has played in all season, and I think the Tar Heels will pull through on Senior Day and end Duke’s streak of recent success. 

Riya Khatod: North Carolina 64-60

This is going to be a close one. In the previous rivalry meeting this season, the Blue Devils pulled through with a massive fourth-quarter comeback to beat the Tar Heels by eight in overtime. Duke is entering this game riding high, winning its last three games, two against ranked opponents, Syracuse and N.C. State, whereas North Carolina is looking to break free from a two-game loss streak. But ultimately, amidst the intense atmosphere at Carmichael Arena with the crowd adorned in Carolina blue and fueled by a determined sense of vengeance, I see head coach Courtney Banghart’s squad emerging with a narrow victory.

Elle Chavis: Duke 58-55 

This game will be a tightly contested, down-to-the-wire matchup of two teams looking to prove themselves with the ACC tournament right around the corner. Last time these two longtime rivals faced off Duke barely walked away with the win, but I have full confidence the Blue Devils can pull off the sweep this time around. Duke has been playing the best basketball of its season over the past three games, cleaning up mistakes that led to many of its previous defeats and taking down two ranked teams along the way. A serious shift in confidence has come through for Duke while North Carolina is still looking to build back confidence coming off of two tough losses. Look for Lawson’s young squad to come out on top of this dogfight and spoil Senior Day for the Tar Heels. 

Ryan Hamner: Duke 63-59

If an overtime battle the last time these teams met is any indicator, this hallowed rivalry is in for another thrilling chapter Sunday. The Blue Devils got the win in Cameron Indoor and have only gotten better since, pulling off several ranked wins while playing some of their best basketball of the year. The Tar Heels, on the other hand, are coming off two losses, leaving them more vengeful than ever. The home crowd will be in full force and on their side — likely stirring a Duke team already weak on the road. But with that said, I cannot pick against this Blue Devil team right now. While young and inexperienced, I have no doubt they know what they can and need to do to escape Chapel Hill with a win. 

Franck Djidjeu: North Carolina 61-57

Duke has been a phenomenal team at home this season, proving that their ceiling is as high as any in the ACC. However, it’s been a completely different story on the road, where they are 5-6 and have struggled to consistently maintain that excellence that they achieve in Cameron Indoor. The Tar Heels have been victims of similar woes, evident in their loss to the Blue Devils earlier in the year. This time, however, the ball is in their court where they have only lost twice all season, once in overtime to Virginia Tech and the other to South Carolina, the consensus No. 1 team in the country. It is going to take this young Duke team playing to its ceiling all night to walk out of Chapel Hill with a season sweep over its rivals. I believe the Blue Devils can keep it close, but homecourt will make the difference.


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