Final Four Gambling: Duke-UNC Rivalry to Bring Massive Bets
The North Carolina Tar Heels-Duke Blue Devils rivalry is one of the longest-standing and most intense rivalries in college basketball— or any sport for that matter.
The first meeting between the two programs came in the first month of 1920, when the Heels beat then-named Trinity College 36-25. Now, they are just a couple of days away from meeting in the Final Four for a chance to compete for the national title.
The two legendary programs split the season series 1-1, with UNC claiming the most recent win in Coach Mike Krzyzewski’s final regular-season game. Betting crowds are going to flock to the rubber match, which will also mark the first time in tournament history that the two blue bloods have faced one another.
Final Four gambling boom
Pre-tournament estimates claimed that over $3 billion would be wagered on events during the tournament, the largest gambling boom in the sport’s history.
33 states have legalized sports betting since a 2018 court decision overruled a precedent that had restricted gambling to just Nevada; new betting handle records have been set seemingly every month since, and this is the latest example of the ongoing trend.
At the same time, this is more than a continuation of some linear trend; this is a duel between the two faces of college basketball, the first and only one of its kind in the rivalry’s history. It is a Goliath on Goliath battle that will be remembered for decades. It is the great moment that every player who passed through each of the programs longed for.
Numbers will not be released until after the tournament, but it is safe to expect the later of two Final Four games to be the biggest gambling draw at this stage in the tournament. UNC heads in as a four-point underdog to the Blue Devils.
The Duke-UNC matchup
Coach K has been on a retirement tour this season and will be stepping down either after his next loss or a national title, which would require two more wins. His coaching counterpart is first-year head coach Hubert Davis, a former player and assistant coach to the legendary Roy Williams.
Davis’ Tar Heels had a rough start to their campaign and were seen as a disappointment, although they rounded into form and strung together multiple impressive outings near the end of the regular season, including a 94-81 win over the Blue Devils just before the postseason.
UNC was ultimately awarded an eighth seed in the tournament, which the UNC players deemed “too low” for their real capabilities.
This statement was a bit of a double-edged sword, due to the high ceiling-low floor construction of the roster. The Tar Heels do not create the best shots in the world and are fairly reliant on Caleb Love and RJ Davis to create from the perimeter, but then again, they did not just randomly stumble onto their 28-9 record.
Their Duke matchup is headlined by freshman sensation Paolo Banchero, a 6-foot-10 face-up player that can work on the low post, find a mid-range J, or pull up from outside. They also have lots of athletes and a defensive terror in center Mark Williams, and ultimately have a slight talent advantage.
If the Blue Devils do fall short in one area, it is the almighty “motor”; they let teams hang around and, although they do usually find buckets when they need them in the clutch, do not have the “refuse to lose” mentality— more a “hard to lose” mentality.
Once again, this will be the first time that the two teams will face one another in the NCAA Tournament, and it is taking place in the Final Four. The game will tip off at 8:49 p.m. ET inside Caesars Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana.
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