No. 5 North Carolina locks up outright ACC title with win over No. 17 Duke

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Joel Berry II scored 28 points, Isaiah Hicks added 21 points and nine boards and No. 5 North Carolina finished off their outright ACC regular season title, beating the field by two full games, in a 90-83 win over No. 17 Duke in the Dean Dome on Saturday night.

And with the win, the Tar Heels have just about locked up a No. 1 seed in the south, regardless of how the ACC tournament plays out. It’s not totally safe, not if, say, Louisville beats Duke, UNC and Notre Dame en route to the ACC tournament title, but as long as UNC wins a game or two next week in Brooklyn, they should be just fine.

The biggest story here, however, is that Duke cost themselves a shot at being the No. 4 seed in the ACC tournament, and what that means is that the Blue Devils are going to have to win four games in four days if they want to be the ACC tournament champs. It also means that their beat-up superstar, Grayson Allen, has one less day to try and get his ankle right.

To be frank, it makes me wonder if it’s worth it for Duke to truly make a run at this thing.

Think about it like this: Duke’s season isn’t going to be determined by how they do in the ACC tournament. With the expectations this group had coming into the year, it’s about Final Four and national titles. This is also a team that doesn’t have certain guys practicing due to injuries, and now they’re going to be asked to play 40 minute games on, potentially, four consecutive days?

That’s seems like an unnecessary risk when winning the ACC tournament would very likely require Duke to go through Louisville and North Carolina before they even get to the title game.

It’ll also never play out that way.

Competitiveness has a way of winning out in situations like this.

Anyway, back to Carolina, they sure did make me look smart for calling them the nation’s best team a few weeks ago. When this group has Isaiah Hicks and Theo Pinson healthy, they are very, very good even on the nights that one of Justin Jackson or Berry doesn’t play all that well.