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The rivalry games with North Carolina is always intense. This year will be no different.
Last year the Tar Heels struggled until Roy Williams went to a smaller lineup. By inserting PJ Hairston, North Carolina finally had their five best players on the court at the same time. That small lineup played the fast pace tempo synonymous with UNC basketball.
What wasn’t so typical of Tar Heels basketball was how many three-pointers they shot. They took 694 threes and made 37.3 percent of them (via ESPN). Game by game, North Carolina sank or swam depending on whether or not those three-pointers were going in.
Unfortunately for Duke fans, North Carolina won’t be so one-dimensional this year. Reggie Bullock, who proved to be the Tar Heels’ best player last season, left for the NBA and senior Dexter Strickland graduated. Hairston and McAdoo opted to return to Chapel Hill and will be joined by prized recruit Isaiah Hicks.
Hicks is a power forward who’ll add an athletic inside presence that’ll pair nicely with McAdoo. If McAdoo finally becomes the player he’s been built up to be and if Marcus Paige is less jittery running the point and increases his stamina so that he can actually make shots in the second half, then North Carolina has a real shot at an ACC title.
If Bullock had returned, then the Tar Heels would’ve been one of the best team in the ACC and a tremendous threat to Duke. As it is, North Carolina won’t be an easy matchup for the Blue Devils but the Tar Heels’ hopes rest upon whether or not last season’s underperforming highly touted players can live up to their hype.