College basketball’s most celebrated rivalry resumes next week in Chapel Hill as the sixth-ranked North Carolina Tar Heels host the No. 5 Duke Blue Devils.
With the longtime foes once again tied atop the ACC standings, Wednesday’s winner will be in the driver’s seat for a top seed in March Madness.
Where: Dean E. Smith Center
When: Wednesday, Feb. 8 at 9:00 p.m. ET
Watch: ESPN, or live stream at ESPN3.com
Listen: Duke: WDNC-AM 620
North Carolina: 1360 WCHL-AM
Betting Line: Not available at this writing.
North Carolina SG Dexter Strickland (knee) is out for the season, according to cbssports.com.
North Carolina SF Harrison Barnes (ankle) is listed as “in doubt” for Saturday vs. Maryland, as reported by the Charlotte Observer.
What’s At Stake?
If Florida State loses to Virginia tomorrow, sole possession of first place in the ACC will be on the line.
Regardless of the outcome in Tallahassee, Wednesday’s winner will gain a one-game edge over their archrivals and become the favorite for the ACC title and a No. 1 NCAA tournament seed.
What They’re Saying
Duke freshman standout Austin Rivers lauded his squad’s team-first approach in last night’s rout of Virginia Tech. “Everybody’s so unselfish now and it makes everything fun,” Rivers told USA Today.
Tar Heel point guard Kendall Marshall tried to look on the bright side of a 31-percent shooting performance by his team against Wake Forest. As reported by ESPN, Marshall observed, “You have to look at that as a positive that we are getting great shots and just keep working to get in extra shots and hope they go in next time.”
Duke Player to Watch
G Tyler Thornton got his first start of the season last night against the Hokies and put up minimal numbers in 28 minutes of action. Thornton is out there for his defense—his biggest edge over former starter Seth Curry—but he’ll need to produce more than two points and one assist against the Tar Heels.
North Carolina Player to Watch
C Tyler Zeller is coming off a monster 18-point, 18-rebound performance against Wake Forest. Duke has plenty of size to throw at the seven-footer, so he’ll need to be on his game again to avoid a serious letdown.
North Carolina PF John Henson vs. Duke PF Josh Hairston. Even if Hairston plays only limited minutes (as he did against Virginia Tech), the 6’7” sophomore isn’t going to be able to avoid matching up with UNC’s 6’11” junior.
For all that Hairston’s defense got him the start over Ryan Kelly, he’ll be hard-pressed to keep Henson from dominating inside.
If Barnes’ ankle gets worse and he turns out to be sidelined, UNC won’t have enough perimeter weapons to run with the deep Duke backcourt.
Assuming the more likely outcome that Barnes is good to go, though, the Dean Dome crowd and Duke’s inexperienced new starters will be enough to swing the game in the Tar Heels’ favor.