Busting Brackets

Duke at North Carolina: 2023-24 college basketball game preview, TV schedule

Charleston Southern v North Carolina
Charleston Southern v North Carolina / Ryan Hunt/GettyImages

The sport’s best rivalry sees a major ACC contest between Duke and North Carolina; can the Blue Devils pull another road upset or can the Tar Heels get on track against their bitterest rivals?

TV schedule: Saturday, February 3, 6:30 pm ET. ESPN

Arena: Dean E. Smith Center in Chapel Hill, North Carolina

This season at Duke (16-4) started with heightened expectations, especially with all the young and returning talent assembled in Durham. Jon Scheyer’s squad has underachieved at times this season, but has a few nice wins and is playing inspired basketball in recent weeks, beating two of the strongest ACC teams in the last week alone.

Sophomore center Kyle Filipowski (17.5 ppg, 8.7 rpg) is certainly the player to watch for the Blue Devils, returning for an unexpected second season and looking like a potential All-American. Jeremy Roach (13.9 ppg, 3.1 apg) just had 16 points at Virginia Tech earlier this week and helps lead a backcourt full of young talent. Freshman Jared McCain (12.4 ppg, 4.3 rpg) is another 5-star prospect coming into his own in recent weeks while Mark Mitchell (12.5 ppg, 6.1 rpg) is another valuable part of this frontcourt.

Duke’s recent winning has them up to #7 in the AP Top 25, though they’re still just 12th in the KenPom ratings and similar metrics. Much like in recent years, an offense that ranks Top 10 in efficiency has gotten the job done for the Blue Devils. They’ve had a few close calls and even lost at home to Pittsburgh two weeks ago, but this young squad knows how to win games and is 4-0 in ACC play away from home.

On the flip side we have a North Carolina (17-4) team that’s been the hottest program in the ACC this season. The Tar Heels had some notable performance in nonconference play before winning their first nine ACC contests. Tuesday’s one-point loss at Georgia Tech still stings, though North Carolina is primed for a bounce back.

This season has seen senior guard RJ Davis (21.5 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 3.3 apg) really develop into a star for the Tar Heels, including 28 points against the Yellow Jackets early this week. We can’t ignore the impact from Armando Bacot (13.4 ppg, 9.9 rpg), who remains one of the nation’s best rebounders even in a down season. One big offseason addition was Stanford transfer Harrison Ingram (12.1 ppg, 8.8 rpg) who has taken on a major role in this frontcourt, while freshman Eliot Cadeau (7.6 ppg, 3.7 apg) proves more valuable with each passing week.

North Carolina will likely fall from that #3 spot in the AP Top 25 after that earlier loss and sit 7th in KenPom’s ratings. Their defense sits among the most efficient in the nation, allowing 70 or fewer points in those first nine ACC wins. The Tar Heels don’t exactly shoot the cover off the ball, but have a bona fide star scorer in Davis and enough on both ends to make life hell for nearly any team.

The Blue Devils very easily could have lost a few more games in league play while the Tar Heels had been dominant prior to this week. Had this game been played last week, wouldn’t the momentum have been in North Carolina’s favor in a major way? The matchup between Filipowski and Bacot was certainly something to watch last season, but these Tar Heels are much better after dropping both games in the rivalry last season.

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Revenge is on North Carolina’s mind but can they achieve that against their bitter rivals? On paper, this looks like a matchup that the Tar Heels should win and a major opportunity to prove themselves and get back on track. Duke needs their offense to get going early, especially against that raucous crowd in Chapel Hill. You can expect North Carolina to pull this one out, but we’ve learned to expected the unexpected in this rivalry.

Prediction: North Carolina 74, Duke 70