One of the greatest rivalries in all of sports returns to the college basketball world on Thursday night, as No. 9 Duke (19-4, 7-3 ACC) and No. 21 North Carolina (17-7, 6-5 ACC) meet at the Dean Dome in Chapel Hill.
Tip is scheduled for 8 p.m. ET, and the game will be broadcast on ESPN. If you don’t have cable or can’t get to a TV, you can watch the game live on your computer, phone or streaming device by signing up for a free trial of one of the following cable-free, live-TV streaming services:
DirecTV Now: There are four different channel packages, and ESPN is included in all of them. You can sign up for a free 7-day trial no matter what package you choose, plus you can get a free Amazon Fire TV if you prepay two months.
Once signed up, you can watch on your computer via the DirecTV Now website, or on your phone, tablet or streaming device via the DirecTV Now app.
Sling TV: ESPN is included in the “Sling Orange” bundle. You can sign up for a free 7-day trial, and you can then watch on your computer via the Sling TV website, or on your phone, tablet or streaming device via the Sling TV app
Note: Once you’ve signed up for one of the above services, you can also watch ESPN via WatchESPN.com on your computer, or via the WatchESPN app on your phone, tablet or streaming device. When asked to verify your cable provider, you’ll just use your DirecTV Now or Sling TV credentials to sign in.
North Carolina vs. Duke. It’s basically the peanut butter and jelly of college basketball. They’re complete opposites, and they (probably) hate each other, but it’s bleepin’ awesome anytime they’re put together in a confined space.
As for this particular edition of college basketball’s best rivalry, both teams are stumbling into it. Duke has lost two of its last three, with one of those (65-63 defeat against No. 2 Virginia) being forgivable, and the other (81-77 defeat against a St. John’s team that is 0-11 in the Big East) being very much not forgivable. North Carolina, meanwhile, has won just one of its last four games, though with that one win being against 8-16 Pittsburgh, it’s sort of like they have a half of a win in their last four games.
Nevertheless, while inconsistency has gotten the better of these teams lately, it still stands as a thrilling matchup because each squad plays at a high tempo and can score in a hurry.
The Blue Devils, led by arguably the best starting five in the country (Trevon Duval, Grayson Allen, Gary Trent, Marvin Bagley, Wendell Carter) can beat you in a number of ways offensively. They’re 34th in the country three-point percentage, 13th in two-point percentage and first in offensive rebounding percentage, which added up equals the second-most efficient offense in the nation and first-most efficient in the ACC.
The Tar Heels don’t shoot the ball nearly as well (76th in three-point percentage, 126th in two-point percentage), but they are equally as dominant on the offensive glass (third in the country) and have a dangerous inside-outside combo in Joel Berry and Luke Maye. They’re the 14th-most efficient offensive in the country and second in the ACC.
With so much offensive firepower, this one could easily come down to who can get a few key defensive stops, or who can keep the other away from the offensive glass. For what it’s worth, Carolina ranks better in both of those categories (29th vs. 74th in defensive efficiency, and 26th vs 194th in defensive rebounding percentage), but expecting this rivalry to ever play out in a rational manner is basically the epitome of irrational.
In terms of the ACC standings, there’s no real major impact here (Virginia is running away from everyone), which is weird to say. But it doesn’t matter. These teams could both be 0-25, and it would still be a must-watch game.