Duke Basketball: Projected Starting Lineups for Next Year's Showdown with UNC
For Duke and North Carolina fans, the rivalry between the two schools is something that is talked about throughout the year
Even though the season is over for both teams, Duke fans will spend the next 10 months with bragging rights while Tar Heel fans will be talking about getting revenge next season.
With the two schools being only eight miles apart, the best rivalry in college basketball is a common topic of discussion no matter what month it is.
Keeping that in mind, let's have some fun and look at the projected starting lineups for next year's showdown between Duke and UNC.
(All stats via ESPN)
UNC: Marcus Paige
Marcus Paige had his ups and downs as the starting point guard for the Tar Heels last season, but he handled the pressure relatively well as a freshman.
Like the rest of his teammates, Paige will have a bad taste in his mouth from the last time he played Duke—a 16-point loss to the Blue Devils in Chapel Hill on March 9. Paige struggled against Duke's pressure defense and had five turnovers while only scoring four points.
He will have an offseason to build his strength and confidence and will be looking to get back at the Blue Devils for last season's two losses.
Duke: Quinn Cook
Most Duke fans agree that this offseason is the time for Quinn Cook to elevate his game.
He was healthy during his entire sophomore season and gained valuable experience running the offense while still being able to defer to players like Seth Curry and Mason Plumlee.
Now, Cook will be counted on to step up as one of the leaders of the team on both ends of the floor.
The rising junior played well in both games against the Tar Heels last season, and his experience and explosiveness should give him an advantage over Marcus Paige.
UNC: Reggie Bullock
Roy Williams received some great news when Reggie Bullock announced (per Gamedayr) he would be returning to North Carolina for his senior season.
The 6'7" wing player has tremendous range from the perimeter and can also make plays around the basket. As a junior, Bullock averaged 13.9 points and 6.5 rebounds per game.
He has the ability to cause problems for Duke because of his size and versatility, but he will occasionally check out of games if his shot isn't falling.
Bullock will likely be the senior leader for the Tar Heels next season, and he will surely have his team ready to play for that first showdown against Duke.
*Update: Reggie Bullock has declared for the draft since this article was published. (Yahoo.com)
Duke: Rasheed Sulaimon
Some Duke fans are hoping Andre Dawkins will return to the team next season and earn a starting spot as the team's second guard, but I don't see him supplanting Rasheed Sulaimon.
The 6'4" guard from Houston had a streaky freshman campaign, but showed tremendous potential and energy. Like many Duke guards who have come before him, Sulaimon clearly has an intense will to win.
Sulaimon was one of the only Blue Devils who did not play well in the March 9 game, against North Carolina, and he ended up losing his starting spot to Tyler Thornton because of his poor performance.
He seems like the type of player who will be thrilled to get another shot at the Tar Heels.
UNC: P.J. Hairston
Reggie Bullock and James Michael McAdoo received more preseason notoriety for the Tar Heels last season, but P.J. Hairston ended up being the team's best player.
When he announced he would be returning to Chapel Hill for another year, this was a huge boost for North Carolina.
If he plays to his potential, he will certainly be in the discussion for ACC Player of the Year next season.
Hairston has the ability score from inside and outside and when he heats up from the perimeter, he is essentially unstoppable. This was evident in the first half of the ACC championship against Miami.
Duke: Rodney Hood
The Mississippi State transfer will finally get a true taste of the rivalry between Duke and North Carolina after having to sit out last season due to NCAA transfer rules.
At 6'8", 210 pounds, it will be interesting to see how Mike Krzyzewski uses Rodney Hood against North Carolina. His length and athleticism could give the Blue Devils a reliable option in defending P.J. Hairston, or he could be used on Reggie Bullock.
If the reports from last season of Hood dominating the rest of his teammates during Duke's practices are accurate, he will be a major factor when the Blue Devils take on North Carolina in the Dean Dome.
UNC: Joel James
Last season, Roy Williams was forced to adjust his lineup to suit his personnel and shift to a smaller lineup. The Tar Heels basically played with no true post player as James Michael McAdoo was more of a hybrid forward.
After a year in the system and an offseason to work on his game, Joel James will work himself into the starting lineup next season.
James is 6'10", 260 pounds and has the ability to be an absolute load in the paint for the Tar Heels who could provide a strong defensive and rebounding presence.
North Carolina will have plenty of scoring options on the floor, allowing James to carve out a spot as a defensive specialist.
Duke: Jabari Parker
Duke fans are hopeful Parker will be as good as advertised and that he can lead the team to a championship during his freshman year in the same way Carmelo Anthony did at Syracuse.
His physical build and style of play has people comparing him to Anthony in many ways.
Parker's first game against North Carolina will be on the road in a hostile environment, and it will be interesting to see how the freshman responds.
UNC: James Michael McAdoo
James Michael McAdoo is the X-factor for the Tar Heels next season.
He announced he would be returning to Chapel Hill for his junior season after his draft stock dropped during a sophomore season when he failed to live up to lofty expectations.
There are times when McAdoo plays the game with beautiful rhythm and touch. There are other times when he looks out of control and overaggressive.
Improving his shot selection and ability to finish plays at the rim will be critical for North Carolina next season.
He has to be looking forward to facing a Duke defense that doesn't feature Mason Plumlee and Ryan Kelly.
Duke: Amile Jefferson
There is a great deal of speculation about who the fifth starter for Duke will be, and there will surely be a battle in practice between Marshall Plumlee, Josh Hairston and Amile Jefferson.
Because of his skills and versatility, Jefferson will emerge as the winner of that battle.
Jefferson didn't receive much playing time in the game at North Carolina on March 9, but he played a big role against the Tar Heels earlier in the season in the contest at Cameron Indoor Stadium. With Ryan Kelly out due to injury, Jefferson grabbed eight rebounds in 20 minutes of play.
Similar to North Carolina's situation with Joel James, if Jefferson can provide solid defense and rebounding in the paint, he will be a key role player for Duke.
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