Duke Vs North Carolina Preview: College Basketball Lives Here

The ACC and SEC BlogSenior Analyst IFebruary 10, 2009

The run to March Madness can officially begin! UNC travels eight miles down Tobacco Road to take on Duke in the best rivalry in college basketball (and there is no argument). The Tar Heels and Blue Devils are tied atop the ACC standings at 7-2 as if there was not enough already on the line.

So many memories in this rivalry, but the two that stick out the most for me (since 1992) are Jerry Stackhouse’s dunk and Jeff Capel’s running three pointer to send the game into overtime. North Carolina is the hotter team right now having won seven in a row while Duke is just 2-2 in their last 4 games.

UNC 21-2, 7-2, 5-1 (away), RPI No. 6
Duke 20-3, 7-2, 14-0 (home), RPI No. 2

UNC and Duke have split the last 10 meetings
UNC has won three of the last five at Duke

Players to Watch:
North Carolina
F Tyler Hansbrough (22.1ppg), G Ty Lawson (15.3ppg), G Wayne Ellington (15ppg)

F Kyle Singler (15.8ppg), G Gerald Henderson (15.2ppg), G Jon Scheyer (13ppg)

What North Carolina must do to win…
I looked back at UNC’s loss to Duke last February and a couple of things stuck out. The Heels had a poor shooting night (40 percent) especially from outside as they were 3 for 17 on three pointers. The main culprits were Ellington and Danny Greene who were a combined 4 for 24 from the floor.

Duke’s lack of size inside (seven footer Brian Zoubek didn’t play) allowed Hansbrough to go for 28 and 18. But really for Carolina it comes down to playing tough defense in the half court something they have not done a great job of at times. Duke was 14 for 30 on three pointers, including Greg Paulus who nailed six from long range in that loss. If UNC plays tough defense they win.

What Duke must do to win…
The Blue Devils have to slow the tempo. Duke does not have the scorers to keep with North Carolina in an 80 plus point game. Also, Duke needs Zoubek, Singler, and Lance Thomas to hold their own down low. Hansbrough has struggled when teams put significant height on him.

Just like he did in last year’s win, senior Greg Paulus has to provide a lift off the bench; last year Scheyer scored 17 coming off the bench. Finally, we know Duke is going to at the very least play good enough defense to stay in the game. The Blue Devils have to shoot well to win this one.

I really could flip a coin on this game. Duke’s come from behind win on Saturday gave them a big emotional lift coming into this game. But surprisingly, the Cameron Crazies have not been kind to Duke as they have lost three in a row at home to Carolina. I think North Carolina’s size and toughness inside overcomes Duke in the second half.

North Carolina wins by 1-5 points

Season: 15-14 SU through 2/8

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