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Duke Blue Devils forward Paolo Banchero (5). (Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire)
April 1st, 2022
A first-ever showdown between UNC and Duke in the NCAA Tournament will get the prime-time spotlight in the second game of the Final Four, set for tipoff at 8:49 p.m. ET Saturday in New Orleans.
Making a record 13th appearance in the Final Four, Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski is one game away from his 10th national title game appearance in what is set to be his final season as a head coach.
The five-time national title winner will retire at the conclusion of this season, his 42nd with Duke, and has his young roster, led by standout freshman Paolo Banchero, playing better than ever.
Ahead of this season, Duke was the fifth choice to win a national title in the preseason championship odds but now sits as the +150 frontrunner to hang a banner.
Along their path to the Final Four, the second-seeded Blue Devils have knocked off No. 15 seed Cal State Fullerton, No. 7 seed Michigan State, and two defensive stalwarts in No. 3 seed Texas Tech and No. 4 seed Arkansas.
Shooting over 50% from the field in all four of those games, Duke has shown poise and maturity down the stretch, despite competing with a starting five consisting of two freshmen and a pair of sophomores.
To beat UNC in their third matchup of the season, the Blue Devils need to stay hot. The Tar Heels are 0-6 when they allow teams to hit 51% or more of their shots, and 10-9 when opposing teams make 44% or more.
However, when the Tar Heels hold teams to under 44% from the field, they are 18-0. Duke has shot under that mark just six times all year.
The last time Duke and North Carolina met was on March 5 in Coach K's final game in Cameron Indoor Stadium, which UNC spoiled with a 94-81 win.
In that encounter, Duke shot 49.3% from the field and went to the line just eight times, while UNC got 22 freebies at the charity stripe and had four of five starters score at least 20 points.
The first matchup of the season played out much differently. The Blue Devils embarrassed North Carolina, 87-67, in Chapel Hill while shooting 57.6% from the field and out-rebounded their rival 40-24.
Meeting No. 3 should produce a result somewhere in between the two we witnessed earlier this season. UNC is playing with a ton of confidence, especially after walloping Saint Peter's in the Elite Eight, and will give Duke everything it has got to ruin Coach K's night all over again.
But the Blue Devils appear to have matured in March and have a chip on their shoulder in this ultimate showdown between two longtime adversaries.
🐐: Crossed a bridge #SI6HTS pic.twitter.com/vs4pqSlKj3— Duke Men’s Basketball (@DukeMBB) March 28, 2022
🐐: Crossed a bridge #SI6HTS pic.twitter.com/vs4pqSlKj3
First-year coach Hubert Davis has been to the Final Four with North Carolina as both a player and assistant in the past, but his experience pales in comparison to the winningest coach in NCAA Tournament history.
In the 258th meeting between North Carolina and Duke, the Blue Devils will prevail in what should be an epic and historic battle that will send Coach K to one final national championship game, before he rides off into the sunset.
Score prediction: Duke 86, North Carolina 83
Our predictive engine is calling for Duke to win outright and the score to go Over the projected total.
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