Final Four Game 2 Preview – North Carolina vs. Duke
The centerpiece event within March Madness is the Final Four, and the centerpiece game at the 2022 Final Four is the showdown between old ACC rivals North Carolina and Duke. Two programs which have established such rich and extensive histories in college basketball will finally meet at the Final Four, something which has never happened before. It’s a remarkable event which will create a special storyline no matter who wins.
North Carolina Tar Heels vs. Duke Blue Devils
Saturday, April 2 – 8:49 p.m. ET
Superdome – New Orleans, LA
Odds: Duke -4
North Carolina Tar Heels
The Tar Heels’ magical March began with a win at Duke on March 5 in Mike Krzyzewski’s very last home game as Duke coach. North Carolina spoiled Coach K’s farewell at Cameron Indoor Stadium with a 94-81 win which marked a complete offensive performance. North Carolina hasn’t looked back since that game, producing a lot of stellar offensive games in March while also developing its defense when it absolutely needed to cultivate more toughness. North Carolina’s offense found a groove in its NCAA Tournament wins over Marquette and Baylor, and then relied on defense and clutch shotmaking in a victory over UCLA. In the Elite 8, North Carolina played a No. 15 seed, Saint Peter’s, and the game thoroughly looked like a matchup between a blue-blood program in college basketball and a No. 15 seed. North Carolina is a No. 8 seed, but it has played like a top-three seed in this NCAA Tournament. Caleb Love scored 30 against UCLA. Brady Manek is playing his best ball of the year. Armando Bacot has become a tough, resilient big man, and R.J. Davis, who had so much success in the March 5 win at Duke, has become a better and more reliable ball-handling guard. Everything about this team has come together at the right time under first-year head coach Hubert Davis, who struggled for months with this group but stayed patient and has managed line everything up in March. We’ll see if the fun continues in early April.
Duke Blue Devils
The Mike Krzyzewski story is two wins from having a fully happy ending. Coach K could win his sixth national championship and then ride into the sunset in the final games of his storied career. Coach K has already done something special in his final season: He has passed John Wooden for the most Final Fours by one coach in men’s college basketball history with 13. He has managed to bring his team together in time for the postseason after having his own struggles in the month of February, plus that March 5 loss to North Carolina which forced him to re-evaluate how he was coaching this team at the defensive end of the floor.
Duke’s defense was noticeably better against Texas Tech and Arkansas, the two games which propelled the Blue Devils to the Final Four. One key for Duke in this March run is that point guard Jeremy Roach has played far better than he did in the regular season. Roach has hit big shots and played timely defense for a team which has lived up to its talent and hype over the past two weeks. With one more great weekend of basketball, this team can give Coach K the ultimate sendoff. At the very least, it can beat North Carolina on Saturday and win the first meeting in the Final Four between these two iconic programs.
There are players on each side who, when locked in and playing their best, make their respective teams very hard to beat. For North Carolina, it’s Brady Manek, whose 3-point shooting spaces the floor and makes defenses have to extend their pressure, creating driving lanes for R.J. Davis and Caleb Love, UNC’s guards.
For Duke, it’s Jeremy Roach, whose shotmaking has enabled Duke star Paolo Banchero to have a lot more room in which to operate against a defender he can beat in one-on-one situations. Whoever plays better, Manek or Roach, will win this game for his team. We’re going with Roach here.
North Carolina vs. Duke Pick: Duke -4