The Duke Blue Devil
One of the best rivalries in all of NCAA basketball is about to be renewed this season.
The annual brawl on Tobacco Road between the University of North Carolina and Duke University is set to being on February 8, in Chapel Hill.
Both teams have similar records, Duke at 18-3 and UNC, having played one more game, at 19-3. They both have suffered a devastating lost to a similar opponent, Florida State. UNC got blow out by 30 and Duke lost on a last second three point shot.
Both teams have loads of talent that are NBA ready. UNC is returning three stars in Harrison Barnes, Tyler Zeller and John Henson. On the flip side, Duke is powered by the freshmen Austin River, the tall brothers down low, Mason and Miles Plumlee, and the three-point shooter Andre Dawkins.
It seems this year Duke has just a slightly better team and here are a few reasons why.
The University of North Carolina suffered a huge blow when they lost Dexter Strickland for the year with a torn ACL.
That coupled with Leslie McDonald getting hurt and Roy Williams putting a red shirt on him, thus saving a year of eligibility for him and other players hurt on and off have put tremendous effort on Zeller, Henson and Barnes.
On the other hand, Duke hasn't had a serious injury since Kyrie Irving only played 11 games last season.
All of Duke's starters have been healthy and have meshed together. The benefit of playing with each other the entire season is that they understand how the other person plays.
That gives Duke an edge over UNC’s starting five.
Ryan Kelly and the Cameron Crazies
Free throws are free points.
As a team, Duke shoots around 70 percent from the charity stripe. Three Duke players (Kelly, Curry and Cook) are shooting over 80 percent. These three people can be relied on at the end of games to knock down crucial free throws to ice the game.
On the other hand, UNC is shooting 65 percent from the stripe. The only person on their roster that shoots over 80 percent is the freshmen P.J. Hairston.
What's shocking is that John Henson is only making 46 percent of his free throws.
Free throws become extremely important during the NCAA tournament, and if UNC wants make a deep run, Barnes is going to have to step up and shoot a better percentage.
Duke has been known as a three-point shooting team for a long time. This team is no different.
Andre Dawkins has attempted 120 shots—the most on the team—and is making them at a 41 percent rate. That's second best on the team to Ryan Kelly, who shoots 47 percent from downtown. The freshmen, Austin Rivers, is shooting 38 percent which is good for a first year NCAA player.
On the flip side, UNC is shooting 36.5 percent from long range.
The two best shooters are shooting 45 percent (Harrison Barnes) and 40 percent (Reggie Bullock). After those two, the completion rate drops significantly. The next highest is at 32 percent (P.J. Hairston) then 28 percent (Kendall Marshall).
This means that when it comes to crunch time and UNC has to make a three, there are only two real options. There are less people to have to guard on the perimeter.
When it comes to comparing Coach K and Roy Williams, almost all the categories have Coach K leading.
In tournament appearances, Coach K has 27, and Williams has 21. For tournament championships, Coach K has 4, and Roy Williams has only 2. Coach K has coached more draft picks (44) than Roy Williams (27).
There was much publicity around Coach K and the amount of wins he has amassed in his career. He has a total of 918 wins while Roy Williams only has 662.
While Roy Williams has a better regular-season win percentage (.749) to Coach K's (.688), Coach K has a better NCAA tournament win percentage, .775 to .753.
So far this season, there have been two different UNC teams.
There's the dominate team that has no problem beating teams. They handled a decent Miami team and beat Wisconsin (who was No. 7 at the time) and only lost by one point to the No. 1 team at the time—Kentucky.
Then, there's the other UNC team that just can't make a shot. This team got embarrassed at Florida St., 90-57.
At times, UNC seems to not care. The go through the motions and seem to be other places than in the basketball arena.
On the other hand, Duke has not had as bad of losses as UNC. Yes, there are times when Duke doesn't seem to be in the gym, but those moments don't last long.
All it takes is one Mason Plumlee put-back slam or an Andre Dawkins' three-pointer to get the energy back in the team.