Duke basketball can help push UNC out of NCAA Tournament picture

Duke basketball guard Jeremy Roach (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
Duke basketball guard Jeremy Roach (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images) /

The Duke basketball team can help push North Carolina out of the NCAA Tournament. 

After everything the North Carolina Tar Heels did to the Duke basketball program last year, the Blue Devils can somewhat return the favor.

North Carolina’s NCAA Tournament hopes are hanging on by a thread, despite being the preseason No. 1 team in country.

The Tar Heels (19-11, 11-8 ACC) only have one Quad 1 victory of the season — a home victory over then No. 6 Virginia last weekend — but have won three games in a row coming on the heels of a stretch in which the program lost five of six games.

However, ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi still has North Carolina as one of his First Four Out entering Saturday’s slate, but a win over Duke could push the national runners-up from a season ago back into the field.

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The Blue Devils (22-8, 13-6 ACC) defeated the Tar Heels, 63-57, in the first matchup between the rivals on February 4 in Durham and the trajectory of the teams changed since then.

Duke, after back-to-back road losses to Miami and Virginia, have since won five straight games and appear to be playing its best basketball of the season with the ACC Tournament beginning next week..

However, four of those five wins have come inside Camden Indoor Stadium for Jon Scheyer’s team as it has only posted a 3-6 record in true road games this season, and are 6-8 game in games outside Durham.

Duke basketball still playing for postseason seeding

Saturday’s game, on paper, might seem more important for North Carolina than Duke but the Blue Devils are still playing to improve its postseason seeding as well.

Duke could be a high as the No. 3 seed in the ACC Tournament, should the Devils win in Chapel Hill and get help around the ACC, but cannot be lower than the No. 5 seed next week in Greensboro.

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Joe Lunardi currently has the five-time National Champions as the No. 6 seed in the ACC Tournament but the ESPN analyst says the Blue Devils are trending upwards and could climb as high as the 4-line with a perfect record through Selection Sunday.

Duke has won two of its last three games in the Dean Dome and will try and push its rival further away from the NCAA Tournament with a victory on Saturday night.