There are a handful of rivalries in college football that have an argument as the best in the sport, led by Alabama-Auburn, Army-Navy, Michigan-Ohio State and Notre Dame-Southern Cal. There is simply no argument, however, about which NCAA basketball rivalry surpasses all others: Duke-North Carolina.
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The Blue Devils returned to No. 1 in the polls Monday and will host the No. 8 Tar Heels on Wednesday in the first of two scheduled meetings as 9-point betting favorites. There’s just nothing quite like that rivalry, and if you ever get the chance to see a UNC-Duke game at Cameron Indoor Stadium, do it. Good luck getting tickets, though. Led by superstar freshman Zion Williamson, the Blue Devils are atop the ACC standings at 11-1. Their two overall losses are by just a combined six points and they enter on a nine-game winning streak.
North Carolina is tied with Virginia a game back of Duke in the ACC. On Saturday, UNC crushed Wake Forest 95-57 for its biggest margin of victory ever in an ACC road game. The Heels and Blue Devils split last regular season, each winning at home. They also played in the ACC Tournament semifinals, and North Carolina won by five. The Heels have covered 15 of their past 21 at Duke.
Could Wednesday night against visiting Florida be a bit of a trap game for No. 13 LSU? The Tigers are battling atop the SEC standings with Tennessee and host the No. 5 Volunteers on Saturday. The Gators are way down this year and won’t be an NCAA Tournament team unless they win the SEC Tournament. Florida has covered just one of its past eight games overall, and is a 6.5-point underdog for Wednesday night.
No. 10 Michigan State will begin life without one of its best players Wednesday when the Spartans host Rutgers. MSU, a co-leader atop the Big Ten with rival Michigan, lost center Nick Ward to a fractured hand in Sunday’s 62-44 rout of Ohio State. Ward was averaging 15.1 points and 6.7 rebounds while shooting 60.4 percent from the field this season. Coach Tom Izzo is hopeful he will return before the end of the season.
Michigan State beat Rutgers by 11 in New Jersey on November 11 (Ward had 20 points) and has to be careful to not look past the Scarlet Knights and toward Sunday’s showdown at No. 7 Michigan. Sparty is 5-2 ATS in its previous seven against Rutgers and is 17.5-point chalk.