Duke vs. UNC Game Time: Breakdown and Predictions for Blue Devils vs. Tar Heels

Eric BowmanFeatured ColumnistFebruary 8, 2012

The Duke Blue Devils hit the road to take on the North Carolina Tar Heels Wednesday night in what is expected to be a great game. 

It's one of the best college basketball rivalries, and it will be the first of two, maybe three, times these two Carolina schools go head-to-head on the hardcourt. 

North Carolina enters the game looking to extend their win streak to six games, whereas the Blue Devils are hoping to bound back from a tough overtime loss to Miami. 

It's always fun to watch these two teams go at it, and neither will disappoint when they hit the court late Wednesday night. 

With that said, let's look at some specifics for this ACC showdown. 


When: Wednesday, Feb. 8 at 9:00 p.m. ET

Where: Dean E. Smith Center, Chapel Hill, NC

Watch: ESPN

Live Stream: ESPN3

Betting Line: UNC (-6), according to VegasInsider.com 


Key Injuries 

*According to StatFox 

F Harrison Barnes, UNC: Probable (Ankle)

G Dexter Strickland, UNC: Out for Season (Knee)


Duke Player to Watch 

The Blue Devils don't have one player that overpowers everyone else in terms of scoring, but tonight, Mason Plumlee will have to be that guy. 

Plumlee, who is 6'10", 235 pounds, will be heavily relied upon both on offense and on defense. Squaring off against the bigs of North Carolina won't be easy. Plumleee will not only have to stop guys like Tyler Zeller, Harrison Barnes, John Henson and James Michael McAdoo, he'll have to get past them on offense. 

Duke desperately needs a big game from Plumlee tonight, or else the Tar Heels will wipe the floor with them. 


North Carolina Player to Watch 

In his last five games, Harrison Barnes is averaging 19 points, scoring a season-high 27 points against Virginia Tech to kick start the Tar Heels' win streak. 

Barnes is the go-to guy for North Carolina, and in the big moments, the Tar Heels will look to him to deliver. 

The 6'8", 215-pound forward must put the team on his back and carry the load for North Carolina. He'll be able to trust his teammates to have his back, but since he's the star, it's Barnes that has to put on a show for the home crowd. 


Keys to Duke Victory 

In order for the Blue Devils to pull off the upset, they have to dominate down low. North Carolina excels in the pain with their bigs, leading the nation in rebounds per game. 

The Tar Heels also lead the country in scoring, averaging 84 points per game. This means that Duke has to be on the top of its game both offensively and defensively. 

Keeping up with North Carolina's pace will be key, as well as preventing their bigs from stealing the show. 


Keys to North Carolina Victory

The Tar Heels need to work the ball inside and pound the glass all night long. By terrorizing the Blue Devils down low, Duke will have a hard time putting points on the board. 

In addition to that, North Carolina will need to limit the production of Duke's guard play. The Blue Devils have superb talent at the guard position, and if Austin Rivers or Seth Curry get hot, it could be a long night for North Carolina. 

Another key will be avoiding a slow start. The last thing the Tar Heels need is for Duke to get out in front early and gain all the momentum. If it does happen, North Carolina needs to stay calm and not get frustrated. Making the proper adjustments will be crucial; otherwise, Duke will run away with it. 



Roy Williams will have his team ready, as will Mike Krzyzewski, so expect a close battle throughout.

In the end, I like the Tar Heels to walk away victorious. Playing in front of the home crowd will help tremendously; plus, the bigs of North Carolina will be too much for Duke to handle. 

North Carolina 82, Duke 79 


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