North Carolina vs. Duke: Looking Ahead to the 2013 Battle of Tobacco Road
North Carolina vs. Duke... or... Duke vs. North Carolina?
Whichever way you look at it, this is the best rivalry in college basketball.
Maybe the most extreme in all of college sports.
The Tar Heels are losing four (Harrison Barnes, John Henson, Tyler Zeller and Kendall Marshall) of their five starters from their 2011-12 team that went 32-6.
The Blue Devils only lose Austin Rivers from their squad that posted a 27-7 record.
What will happen when these two great programs clash in 2013?
Who will be matched up when UNC and Duke go head-to-head?
Here's a quick look at what we can expect in this coming year's Battle of Tobacco Road.
Seth Curry vs. Marcus Paige
Will this be the year that Seth Curry becomes comfortable running the show for the Blue Devils?
Will he transition from being a SG that gets a few assists per game (2.5 apg in 11-12) to a scoring PG that balances creating shots for his team and getting his own opportunities?
Last year, Curry led Duke in assists (83), but he almost had as many turnovers (69).
Coach K doesn't need him to become a classic floor general, but the Blue Devils will be that much more lethal in terms of scoring potential if he can keep everything in order.
Incoming freshman Marcus Paige has the inside track to fill the void left by Kendall Marshall's departure.
Paige, ESPNU's No. 1 PG from the Class of 2012, is a lefty with bounce and a killer j.
The McDonald's All-American can get nasty if he finds someone who will play pick-and-roll with him.
Both Curry and Paige will be counted on to score and set up their teammates.
The one who can stay poised and keep his team stable will give his squad the upper hand.
Rasheed Sulaimon vs. Dexter Strickland
Dexter Strickland is working hard to recover from a torn ACL that knocked him out of the last two months of the 2011-12 season.
It is likely that Strickland will be the only senior starter for Roy Williams.
The senior may not average double-digits (he has scored 7.5 ppg in both his sophomore and junior seasons), but his biggest contributions are in leadership and being a lockdown defender.
Rasheed Sulaimon showed in this year's McDonald's All-American game that he is ready to join the long list of Duke players who could consistently knock down shots from beyond the arc.
Sulaimon not only hit 4-of-8 three's in the game, he was also the 2012 McDonald's All-America Powerade Jam Fest three-point contest winner.
Amile Jefferson vs. Reggie Bullock
Amile Jefferson, who just committed to Duke, will bring toughness and athleticism to the Blue Devils lineup.
Jefferson relentlessly takes the ball to the rack and is ready to battle on the offensive glass until he gets the job done.
It is possible that Coach K goes with redshirt freshman Alex Murphy at SF.
If so, Murphy is a versatile combo forward who can do work inside or outside.
Reggie Bullock (pictured) is ready for a break-out junior season.
The 6'7" wing scored 8.8 ppg as the fourth offensive option on last year's Tar Heel team.
After playing alongside Harrison Barnes for most of last season, Bullock may be one of the best SFs in the ACC in 2012-13.
Advantage: North Carolina
Ryan Kelly vs. James Michael McAdoo
This could be the best battle when the Blue Devils and Tar Heels square off in 2013.
Rising senior Ryan Kelly is one of the best shooters among PFs in the nation.
Kelly was Duke's best three-point shooter last year (40.8 percent), and there's no reason to think that he won't be stroking it again this coming season.
James Michael McAdoo gave everyone a preview at the end of last season of what he is capable of doing at the 4.
McAdoo has smooth moves around the bucket and uses his size and motor to work the glass on both ends of the court.
Mason Plumlee vs. ???
Mason Plumlee's decision to return for his senior season changed the entire outlook of the 2012-13 Blue Devils.
Rather than lacking any proven post player, Coach K can depend on Plumlee to consistently provide rebounding and the ability to finish at the rim.
At 6'10", Plumlee can use his athleticism to beat most other centers down the court and maneuver on the block.
Roy Williams has lots of options but no clear front-runner to fill the gaping hole left behind by Tyler Zeller's departure.
Rising sophomore Desmond Hubert (6'10", 205 lbs) only logged 123 minutes and grabbed 37 rebounds in his first year at Carolina.
Williams could also go with either of two incoming freshmen (Brice Johnson and Joel James) to fill the 5.
Johnson may need to add some bulk before trying to bang down low.
James has the necessary size (6'10", 260 lbs) to bang but might be a year away from being ready to steadily contribute.
It could be "center-by-committee."
Duke has solid depth at every position.
Either Quinn Cook (pictured) or Tyler Thornton could start at the point if Coach K wants a more traditional floor leader to run things.
If Andre Dawkins suits up for his senior season, he is instant offense off the bench.
Murphy or Jefferson, whichever doesn't start at SF, will be an excellent spark.
Marshall Plumlee will give the Blue Devils another rangy big who can, if nothing else, spell his brother and work the glass.
North Carolina's backup guards could start for most of the other ACC schools.
There will be virtually no drop off whatsoever when Leslie MacDonald, who returns from sitting last year with a knee injury, and P.J. Hairston come into the game.
J.P. Tokoto is a prototypical SF with all of the quickness and agility to cause nightmares for anyone who tries to shut him down.
Tokoto uses his quick hops to throw it down in traffic or off of a missed shot.
As described on the previous slide, Williams has a selection of options for who could back up McAdoo.
Throw out the records, stats and comparisons.
This is a rivalry game that comes down to who executes on game night.
Nothing would surprise me when it comes to the results of these matchups in 2013.
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