No matter how the stage is set or what’s on the line, things get heated and certainly entertaining whenever Duke and North Carolina play in the season finale of the ACC. Things were no different on Sunday as the Blue Devils and Tar Heels went back and forth the entire first half, before Duke stormed off in the second and won with a final score of 93-81.
After a tough loss earlier this week to Wake Forest, which many think might’ve been enough to knock Duke from consideration for a number-one seed in the tournament, the win was a great way for the Blue Devils to finish the regular season as they get ready for the ACC and National Tournaments. The biggest performers on the night were Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood, both of which are in their first year at Duke as a freshman and a transfer, respectively. The 30 and 24 points that Parker and Hood put in combined for more than half the Blue Devils point total. Parker is expected to be a potential lottery pick and he can certainly boost his stock with solid performances in the coming weeks like he had on Saturday.
The 13-point loss may not have been the ideal way to end the regular season, but the Tar Heels are still 1-1 on the season against Duke and most would agree that they had an efficient season after PJ Hairston was dismissed from the team before the season started. The Heels finished the regular season 23-8 and were ranked #14 before the loss. They will certainly make the National Tournament and have 20/1 odds to win it all. However, a strong performance in the ACC Tournament could drastically help them with where they are seeded and who they’ll play against. It also won’t hurt to have momentum on their side, which they had during their 12 game winning streak that was snapped by Duke on Saturday.
The leading scorer for the Tar Heels in the season final was Marcus Paige with 24. Paige has stepped into the leadership role this season by averaging 17.1 points and 4.5 assists per game.
With teams like Virginia, Syracuse and Duke in the conference, whoever wins the ACC is going to have huge momentum in late March. There is also still the chance that if Duke or Virginia was able to win the ACC Tournament, and other teams like Arizona or Wichita State was to falter in their own tourneys, there is the possibility that a team from the ACC could get a number-one seed on selection Sunday. Virginia has already won the regular season ACC crown and they currently sit at 12/1 to win it all. Had Duke not lost to Wake Forest earlier this week, they would have better odds as well. But depending on what happens throughout the rest of the country, there is still a chance for both of these teams.
As great as the win for Duke was on Sunday, the true winners are the fans. Now that the regular seasons are over, it’s tournament time in the NCAA and you can expect to see daily picks by the handicappers at Sportspicks.com.