UNC at Duke Basketball Brawl - Round One
True college basketball fans should experience this game at least once in their lives.
One of the biggest games in all of sports—not just college basketball—is the annual home-and-home series between the UNC Tar Heels and the Duke Blue Devils. If you’re a fan of the ACC, you already know so much about what goes into this rivalry, such as the fact that Duke University and the University of North Carolina—Chapel Hill are only a few miles apart.
If you don’t think this game is in incredibly high demand, take a second to look at the latest UNC Duke ticket prices.
ESPN’s entire concept of ‘Rivalry Week’ was spawned from the Duke-UNC game, and few rivalries are this heated. The matchup between the Blue Devils and the Tar Heels is in the ranks of the greatest rivialries ever, including Yankees-Red Sox and Ohio State-Michigan.
While analysts, writers and pundits will tick off all the reasons why the rivalry is so big, there’s really only one reason why it’s gotten to be one of the highlights of the entire college basketball season.
It’s because Duke and UNC are heavyweights. Having Duke and UNC in the same conference is like putting, literally, UCLA and Kansas in the same conference, or maybe more accurately, having the ‘85 Chicago Bears play the ‘72 Dolphins twice every season. It’s always a clash of Titans, and sometimes, literally, blood is spilled.
This year is probably going to be one of the better games even in this storied rivalry; the Tar Heels have slipped from the vaunted perch of ‘team of destiny,' and with three roster losses (Marcus Ginyard, Tyler Zeller and William Graves) since the beginning of the season, they are strong but vulnerable. Their offense is high octane, but sometimes their defense lags. Duke, on the other hand, has played better defense than the Heels up until now, but their offense sometimes gets sporadic.
Here’s some more bullets about this game:
- UNC can score very quickly and has the best transition game in the country. Everyone talks about Ty Lawson, but a key factor is that UNC can kill you in a lot of ways, not just Lawson and Hansbrough. On the break, Danny Green and Wayne Ellington can load up on teams and Ellington is out of his shooting slump.
- Duke’s ability to handle pressure. Until the Clemson game, I would have said Duke would not be rattled, but the type of pressure Clemson used so effectively against Duke is the exact type that UNC is so good at. In fact, UNC is far better at it than Clemson. However, we must remember that Clemson at Littlejohn against Duke and UNC is a completely different team than when they hit the road, and that has to be taken into account, just as UNC’s loss to Boston College.
- Can UNC effectively guard Paulus, Smith, Henderson, Scheyer and Singler? Forget the battle in the paint—Hansbrough has always pounded Duke, and nobody on the current Duke squad is going to change that. Add in Ed Davis and Deon Thompson and Duke is going to have to see if they can work an advantage from the wings and guards, where UNC’s defense often overcommits and sometimes completely misses assignments.
Smith hasn’t proven that he’s adapted to college game well enough yet to best Lawson as the starting PG, but Paulus coming in off the bench will be matched up against Larry Drew II.
Drew is a good point guard, but in this game, this year, you have to give a decided advantage to Paulus. I expect Duke to try and free Paulus for open threes when Drew is guarding him. Long story short: Duke will probably win or lose this game based on their offensive execution from the perimeter and their ability to prevent UNC from getting easy baskets in transition.
- The key matchup: who’s got Singler? Danny Green surprisingly gave Wake Forest’s James Johnson fits when matched up, and the reason is that Green’s athletic ability allows him to play against taller players, even those like Johnson and Singler who are deep threats. Singler may have good success if he can get a matchup on Thompson or Davis and pull them out of the paint, where he can shoot or put the ball on the floor.
This game should be a blast. With the first game at Duke, I have to give them an edge, but if UNC can play defense consistently for the entire game, it will be tough for Duke. Again, if you want to see the game in person, use this free tool to find the ticket service with the cheapest UNC vs. Duke tickets.
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