On Saturday night at 6 p.m. ET on ESPN, we will bear witness to one of the most anticipated events in college basketball. Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski will be on the sideline for his final game at historic Cameron Indoor Stadium. And to add a little extra intrigue, the No. 4 Blue Devils' opponent is the North Carolina Tar Heels. The greatest rivalry in college hoops will be renewed for the final time at Cameron with the legend presiding over the Blue Devils.
The anticipation couldn't be higher, nor could ticket prices. On the secondary market, the cheapest ticket runs around $3,000 and the most expensive is around $80,000. In the offseason, a package of four courtside seats was auctioned off for charity at the price tag of $1 million.
It will be a scene many of us never forget, but, because this is what we do here, what's the likelihood that you're cashing a winning ticket when the pomp and circumstance is over?
Coach K is 486-434-14 against the spread overall since the 1993-94 season (as far back as our database goes). But the numbers against North Carolina don't paint as pretty of a picture if you are a betting backer of Duke. Since 1993-94, the Blue Devils are 26-37-1 ATS against their biggest rival and a paltry 8-19 ATS at home.
While the historical perspective is interesting, it's not wholly relevant to this season. Duke is 17-11-2 ATS this season and has won 12 of its last 13 games straight up, including a 20-point beatdown of UNC in Chapel Hill last month (Duke was a 3.5-point favorite in that game). This young Blue Devils team is playing well, but they still have not reached their full potential. They're arguably the most talented team in the country, but they have had some late-game hiccups in tight games, including in losses straight up to Miami (+15.5) and Virginia (+11) at home. Oddly enough, Duke has not been as dominant at Cameron this season, winning by an average of 8.5 points per game, which ranks in the bottom half in the history of seasons under Krzyzewski. On the road, the Blue Devils have won by an average of 14.2 PPG, the second-best mark in the Coach K era.
Since the shellacking in February, UNC has won six of seven and is starting to play with more consistent effort and togetherness on both ends of the floor. Armando Bacot is an ACC Player of the Year candidate and is playing at the top of his game right now. The Tar Heels are still on the tourney bubble, so this is a massive opportunity for them to solidify their résumé. That said, they are the inferior team here and are 12-point underdogs Saturday night.
On this historic night, the pressure on Duke to be at their best for their coach will be unlike anything they've felt. Coach K is a master at the mental part of the game, but I'm not sure even he can shield this young team from feeling this moment. I expect Coach K will ride off into the Cameron sunset with a win, but with that pressure, coupled with the Blue Devils' home form and a hungry rival looking to spoil this moment, I think the Heels will take you to cover city.