Duke-North Carolina: Devils Will Be Favored but Shouldn't Overlook Surging Heels

Mike KlineAnalyst IFebruary 7, 2011

Anything short of a team effort could prove costly when Duke hosts its arch rival North Carolina Wednesday.
Anything short of a team effort could prove costly when Duke hosts its arch rival North Carolina Wednesday.Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

Anytime Duke and North Carolina face off, the stakes are typically high.

Wednesday night's game will be no different as the teams, which are No. 1 and No. 2 respectively in the ACC standings, will tip off for a chance to take over the top spot.

Duke, the No. 5 team in the country, is expected to be favored heading into the game against No. 23 North Carolina.

But the Tar Heels have been surging lately, getting excellent production from two of freshmen.

Harrison Barnes has finally seen the light turn on and the size of the rim grown. After playing much of the season timidly at times almost looking afraid to be the aggressor, he has stepped up his game and North Carolina has benefited greatly.

Following the strange and sudden departure of Larry Drew, more pressure is thrown on Kendall Marshall. The young point guard has been an assist machine of late, dishing out 14 assists this past weekend in a big win over Florida State.

So, despite the fact that Duke is higher ranked and, for the most part, highly regarded this season, the Blue Devils should not sleep on the Tar Heels.

Prior to last year's sweep and drubbing of North Carolina at Cameron, UNC had dominated Duke on its home court.

With the likes of Tyler Hansbrough and Ty Lawson, the Blue Devils never could get over the hump.

They did last year in a big way, taking the game in Chapel Hill and embarrassing the Heels in Cameron.

Earlier this year, it looked as if the situation might play out the same, but as both teams begin to settle into what they have, this matchup is looking more and more like the traditional slug-fests which have made this rivalry the best in college basketball.

Anyone who thinks this game will be a cakewalk is going to be sadly disappointed.

While Duke has the advantage of the home court, senior experience, two All-American candidates and the likely ACC Player of the Year, North Carolina, unlike last season, is surging.

Duke fans won't want to remember, but during the 2006 season when the Blue Devils featured the likes of JJ Redick and Shelden Williams, a young Tar Heel squad marched into Durham and handed them a loss.

That doesn't guarantee history will repeat itself, but it should give Duke fans some pause before they consider this latest version of "The Rivalry" a sure thing.