Now that football season is officially over, the sports world will turn to college basketball for entertainment. For all of those folks who are already missing their beloved football, here are two things to keep in mind: (1) March Madness — you know, the best time of the year to be a sports fan — is just around the corner, and (2) the North Carolina Tar Heels and Duke Blue Devils will renew their rivalry on Thursday, February 9.
North Carolina will enter this ACC showdown with a 21-4 record while Duke holds an 18-5 record. As is usually the case when these teams meet up, both squads will be ranked in the top 25 when they take the court against one another on Thursday. The Tar Heels are ranked as high as No. 7 in the polls. The Blue Devils are ranked as high as No. 18.
Thursday will be the 77th game between North Carolina & Duke when both teams are ranked, 37 more than any other matchup in the AP Poll era.
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) February 8, 2017
If you are just tuning in, it’s important to keep in mind that while Duke has the lower ranking, it entered the 2016-17 college basketball season with some serious hype. Not only did this squad enter the season with the No. 1 ranking in the sport, but there were also some whispers (although relatively quiet) of a 40-0 season. Fast forward to now, and Duke has five losses and has been a disappointment — to say the least.
Not only is No. 1-ranked recruit Harry Giles not looking like the, well, No. 1-ranked recruit (via ESPN), but Grayson Allen, a man who averaged 21.6 points per game last season, has had some tripping issues.
The Blue Devils remain arguably the most talented team in the country, but they could use a big-time win right about now, and a victory over North Carolina, a team that looks like it could make a run to the national champion yet again, would provide said big-time win.
Before one of the best rivalries in sports gets underway, make sure to get your fix of bold predictions.
Grayson Allen Reminds Everyone That He Is Still A Scoring Machine
While Grayson Allen hasn’t been the same player he was last year, he is still averaging 15.8 points per game in 2016-17. He is still capable of torching any defense in college hoops, and he will do just that by dropping 20-plus points on North Carolina.
Note: Allen has scored 21 points in back-to-back games.
Harry Giles Has A Double-Digit Night In The Scoring Department
Yes, there are plenty of mouths to feed at Duke, and, yes, Giles has not been setting the sport on fire; however, he still has all of the talent in the world, and he will prove that by dropping 10-plus points on the Tar Heels.
This is bold for the simple fact that Giles has played single-digit minutes in back-to-back games. He also hasn’t scored 10 or more points since January 7.
Duke Knocks Off North Carolina In The Final Seconds Of The Game
This is Duke vs. North Carolina, meaning anything is possible.
Four players on the Tar Heels are averaging 12-plus points per game. Meanwhile, five Blue Devils are putting up 10 or more points per contest. What does that mean? Well, it simply means both teams are loaded with players who can put the ball in the hoop at a decent rate. After all, Duke’s Luke Kennard is averaging 19.8 points per game. Justin Jackson is leading North Carolina with 18.6 points per contest. Still, it wouldn’t be a surprise if players like Kennedy Meeks or Jayson Tatum led all scorers.
Talent will be flooding the court when these teams meet up. However, look for the Blue Devils to make a big-time shot in the final seconds of the game, which will lead to them gaining some much-needed momentum with March Madness just around the corner.
[Featured Image by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images]