Duke vs. North Carolina Prediction: Back Coach K in this Historic Matchup

Duke vs. North Carolina prediction and pick for Saturday's Final Four matchup between these two bitter rivals. In what could be Coach K's final game, he faces his rival North Carolina. Who comes out on top? Find out here.
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Duke vs. North Carolina Prediction: Back Coach K in this Historic Matchup

History will be made tonight as the Duke Blue Devils and the North Carolina Tar Heels face off in Caesars Superdome in New Orleans. This is the first-ever meeting between the two historic franchises in the NCAA Tournament, and it's set to be Mike Krzyzewski's last game ever. His players have certainly left it all on the court throughout the tournament to get themselves in this position, and they are playing some of their best basketball of the season. It's too bad that it will not be Roy Williams across from Coach K, though, as first-year head coach Hubert Davis has taken the reigns at UNC. I would say he's had a successful run as a first-year head coach, as not many make it to the Final Four. He has done an impressive job in his debut, and after a shaky first few months, the team has got it all going for them in February and March.

You can catch this game starting at 8:50 p.m. EST tonight on TBS, following the Villanova and Kansas game. The line is currently sitting at Duke -4 with a total sitting at 152. Will Coach K end his career with a trip to another championship?

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Duke vs. North Carolina Prediction

It's funny to see two Atlantic Coast Conference teams squaring up in the Final Four because, for most of the year, most people were talking about how bad the ACC looked. Many people were unsure how Duke would look after a historically bad season for Coach K last year, but any doubts were quickly erased after Duke opened the year with a win over Kentucky and Gonzaga to start the year off 7-0. Duke only lost four conference games in the regular season, going 16-4 in conference play. A large part of this success has come from the high-powered offense that Paolo Banchero and Wendell Moore provide. The duo combines for over 30 points and seven assists per game. The Blue Devils enter this matchup as the number-one ranked offense by Kenpom and have been on an absolute tear in the tournament.

They torched #1 ranked defense Texas Tech and #11 defense Arkansas for 78 points each. That's not easy in a tournament setting where points are usually harder to come by, especially against high-profile defenses. This is due to how well Duke spreads the floor. They are one of the most efficient teams in the paint with Paolo Banchero and Mark Williams, but also have three players averaging over 40% from behind the arc. Duke has been the best three-point shooting team in the tournament, shooting 38% as a team over the last three games. Now, they face a North Carolina team whose struggles have been in the backcourt. North Carolina is also 205th ranked in opponents' three-point percentage and haven't been efficient in defending the perimeter. All in all, I expect Duke to have their way against the North Carolina defense tonight. Bacot has been an efficient defender down low, but Banchero is one of the best finishers in the paint, and they have too many options in the frontcourt to be slowed down by UNC.

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I was honestly surprised to see UNC make it past UCLA, but they were able to use their size to pull down 15 boards and also kept UCLA off the free-throw line, giving them only eight attempts the entire game. I don't expect a similar outcome against Duke. Duke is a large and lengthy team, and the Banchero-Williams duo has been a force down low. The free throw margin should be a lot closer in this one, as well as the rebounding margin.

UNC relies on scoring from the perimeter, and they are an excellent perimeter offense behind Caleb Love, RJ Davis, and Brady Manek, but Duke has been an effective defense shutting down the perimeter. Duke ranks 50th in opponents' three-point-to-field-goal attempts and gives most of their opponents looks inside. UNC may have to adjust their game plan and rely on Bacot more in this one, but Williams is an excellent defender and has one of the highest block rates in the nation.

The components of this game favor Duke in my eyes. It should be fast-paced and more offensive-minded. Where UNC has used rebounding and free-throw margins to get to the Final Four, Duke should neutralize that advantage. Duke is the more balanced offense and has looked incredible in back-to-back games against two of the best defenses in the nation. They are firing on all cylinders. UNC is a team where if they go cold from the perimeter for periods in this game, they will look a little lost. It's how they almost lost the game against UCLA before two clutch threes in the final two minutes helped them advance. Maybe it's the magic of coach K's last season or a little help from the refs, but Duke has looked more complete in my eyes and should win this game while covering the spread.

Duke vs. North Carolina Pick

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Ben Rajavuori is a handicapper out of Minneapolis, MN. He has been creating sports content for almost four years now and is an expert in all things NFL, MLB, NBA, UFC, and NCAAB. Ben thrives on diving deep into statistics to find the best angle on every bet. You can follow him on Twitter @WeBeatTheSpread.

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