North Carolina vs Duke
The best rivalry in college basketball, Duke-UNC. Both of these teams are coming off of losses to teams that they should have beat, and both teams played poor defense against those teams. No matter what happens the rest of the season, you can just about throw every statistical category out the window when these two teams get together. They always bring their A game when they meet and their matchup on Saturday should be no different. The Tobacco Road rivalry is a must watch and I’m sure this game will get a little chippy at some point. It seems pretty evident by looking at each of these teams last two games that they were looking ahead to this game instead of focusing on their opponent. North Carolina took the first matchup between these two teams earlier this month, but Duke will look to get revenge on their home floor.
North Carolina is a team that has played well lately with the exception of their loss to Miami in their most recent game. They are a team that thrives on rebounding and getting second chance points. They lead the nation in rebounding with 42.7 per game. Luke Maye has really stepped into a star role this season and has been a nice compliment to Joel Berry. The duo lead the team in scoring; Maye also leads the team in rebounding. I don’t think these two are as important to this game as Theo Pinson. Maye and Berry will surely get upwards of 15 points each and Maye will likely secure a double-double, but Theo Pinson is a different story. Pinson has been inconsistent this season and only averages 9 points per game on the year. He’s very talented, but hasn’t been seen as a scorer throughout his career. Over his last 5 games, he’s recorded 12, 23, 19, 16 and 11 points. Obviously he has the ability to score, but it’s going to be about his drive to score when UNC plays Duke. Kenny Williams will be another integral part of the Tar Heels success. His offensive production has slipped in the past few games, but if he can add 10 or more, the Tar Heels will be in a better position to beat their rivals in Durham.
Duke, like their counterpart North Carolina, is also a team that rebounds the ball extremely well and they rank second in the country in rebounds per game. Marvin Bagley and Grayson Allen are the leaders of the Duke offense and both struggled to find their rhythm against Virginia Tech. Allen seemed to be forcing too many three point shots and Bagley was just kind of going through the motions. If something like this were to happen again, Duke would need Gary Trent Jr. or Wendell Carter to step up and score some points. They combined for 10 points in the loss to Virginia Tech. If you only get 44 points from your top 4 players, it’s going to be tough to win any games. I don’t think that any of these four players will have any difficulty bringing a higher level of intensity to this game. Everyone that touches the court will be fired up and ready to go. Duke shoots a ton of three pointers and if those aren’t falling, their offense will be in trouble against a good North Carolina team.
Keys to the Game
North Carolina: Shut down Grayson Allen. Everything for Duke runs through Grayson Allen. He’s been very successful when he runs the point for Duke. The defense also runs through him and he is the most important part at the top of their zone. Allen is very pesky on defense and can start knocking down shots in a hurry if he is able to get on a roll. In the last time these teams met, UNC was able to limit Grayson Allen to just 9 points and ended up walking away with a victory.
Duke: Limit offensive rebounds allowed. In the last meeting between these teams, North Carolina won the rebounding battle, 44-38. 20 of their 44 rebounds were offensive rebounds which lead to them scoring lots of second chance points. North Carolina likes to kick the ball out and reset their offense when they get second chance opportunities which also takes time off the clock. If Duke is able to win the rebounding battle and move the ball up the floor quickly with their guards, they will be able to win in front of their home fans.
This is definitely going to be a close game, as these ones always are. This is the ast regular season game for both teams and emotions will be running high before the start of the ACC tournament. I like both teams and think that if they play their best basketball at all times during March, they can make a serious tournament run and may even cut down the nets at the end of the year. That being said, I think Duke is going to get a win in their home gym. Their fans, known as the Cameron Crazies, provide an advantage unlike any other in college basketball. Duke has that true villian feel to them this season and it’d be a perfect time for the villians to get some revenge.
Duke 84 UNC 81