Duke vs. UNC: Players to Watch in ACC Showdown

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Duke vs. UNC: Players to Watch in ACC Showdown
Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

The Duke Blue Devils and UNC Tar Heels will clash once again this Wednesday in one of the most important ACC matchups thus far this season. The two teams have had similar success thus far, although UNC (16-7) is still two games behind Duke (19-5) in the ACC.

Both teams are extremely talented and will undoubtedly put on quite a show when they take the court.

The Tar Heels will be led by sophomore guard Marcus Paige, who's truly been the quarterback of this team all season long. He will likely be guarded by Duke's resident QB on the court, Quinn Cook, who has been quite the weapon for Duke through the first part of the season.

Paige and Cook are just two players who will assuredly make an impact in this game, but they're far from the only two. 

 

Jabari Parker, F, Duke

Freshman forward Jabari Parker has been outstanding for the Blue Devils and will be a key player come Wednesday night. He had the best game of his career Saturday against Boston College in which he scored 29 points and tallied 16 rebounds.

Parker is very smooth when driving the lane but is as physical as any when going up for the rebound. Parker's combination of size and athleticism was a clear problem for BC and may give the Tar Heels fits come Wednesday.

H/t Fansided.com

He's impressively quick for his size, and his explosiveness is what sets him apart from almost any other forward in the country.

Parker will be a big part of the outcome of this game either way it shakes out. If Duke wins, it's likely because Parker had a good game. If it loses, it could very well be due to Parker not performing at his usual standard.

 

James Michael McAdoo, F, UNC

Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

James Michael McAdoo has been one of the better players in college basketball this year, and he's been a machine for the Tar Heels on the offensive side of the ball. 

The junior forward has scored double-digit points in each game he's played in since early December and will be a key presence in the paint for UNC. McAdoo is coming off of a strong game against Notre Dame in which he had 18 points and eight rebounds while also sinking all six of his free throws.

Against Duke, McAdoo will be counted upon to use his size and length down low in order to take advantage and control things from the inside out.

The Blue Devils will have a tough time dealing with McAdoo's presence if he gets hot, and that could be the key to victory for the Tar Heels.

 

Quinn Cook, G, Duke

Quinn Cook is one of the most efficient point guards in the country, although he often flies under the radar compared to teammates Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood. Just as Paige does, Cook helps facilitate a strong Blue Devils team.

He has been the catalyst for Duke's proficient showings this season and is very key to its offensive rhythm. Although his main task will be to spread the ball around, Cook will need to take his shots when he sees an opening.

Duke is very good at shooting beyond the arc (No. 2 in the nation) and could really deflate the confidence of UNC if Cook is able to knock down a couple of timely three-pointers.

 

Marcus Paige, G, UNC

As a sophomore, Paige has been one of the most integral pieces of UNC's team. He leads the squad in points per game and assists per game and is the oil that keeps this team's hinges greased. Paige has matured a whole lot from last season and has become much more than a facilitator—he's a leader.

Paige will be especially important in this game as he will need to be efficient in getting the ball to the big guys like McAdoo and Kennedy Meeks, but he will also need to attack the lane confidently to draw fouls. Paige has made 90.5 percent of his free throws this season and will be counted on to get his team points whenever there's an opportunity.

He may not rack up a ton of points, but as long as Paige can get the ball to his big men and do well at the line, the Tar Heels will be in great shape to take down the Blue Devils. 

Both teams are riding some momentum coming into this game, and it will truly come down to who makes the fewest mistakes.

The Blue Devils seem to be a bit more together as a unit, though that's not to discount the positive strides UNC has made since the season's beginning. The Tar Heels will surely put up a fight, but Duke should nab a motivating win on the road.

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