It's the biggest rivalry in college basketball. It might even be the biggest in all of sports. Duke-North Carolina just doesn't compare to other so called "rivalries." With The Battle of Tobacco Road rapidly approaching, I can't wait to see which team will triumph in Chapel Hill.
Although nearly all of North Carolina's team is gone from last season, the meeting on Wednesday between the Tar Heels and Blue Devils is highly anticipated. Carolina has struggled mightily this year with ten losses through just 23 games, but history has shown us that the favored team coming into the rivalry doesn't always come out on top. For example, the eventual 2001 National Title winning Blue Devils lost to North Carolina during the regular season, and the 2005 National Champion Tar Heels fell to the J.J. Redick-led Duke team that season.
There are several match-ups between a variety of players that are very appealing tomorrow night. Here are my top three that will help determine which team prevails come Wednesday:
1. Larry Drew II vs. Jon Scheyer
This should bode for an interesting matchup in the back court with Drew and Scheyer second and fourth in the ACC in assists per game, respectively. Scheyer is a phenomenal defensive player and can quickly convert turnovers into points in the transition game. It will be interesting to see how Drew responds to this pressure on offense. Scheyer and Drew are also dangerous from the beyond the arc. Scheyer has the most three pointers in the conference, while Drew is one of the most accurate shooters at 43.1 percent.
Overall, I think Scheyer will have the better game because of the experience from past year's games. Advantage: Duke
2. Deon Thompson vs. Brian Zoubek/Lance Thomas
Deon Thompson is obviously the better player offensively here, but Lance Thomas and Zoubek have done an excellent job defensively on some of the best post players in the country this season. Thompson has led the team with experience throughout the season which will be key in this game. Although his stats don't really tell the story, Lance Thomas can play some serious defense. He could also spend some time guarding Ed Davis, but he will make an impact either way.
Overall, I think Deon Thompson will be one of the few Tar Heels to play well tomorrow. Advantage: North Carolina.
3. Marcus Ginyard vs. Kyle Singler
I am not sure if Coach K will even have Kyle Singler match up with Ginyard, but it would be an interesting battle between the two leaders on both ends of the floor. Singler had been cold from the field up until the Georgia Tech game when he caught fire with 30 points, including 8-10 from three point range. He is off and on, so I have no idea how he will respond to the pressure of this huge rivalry.
In my opinion, Ginyard really hasn't regained his touch since his injury last season. However, he has put up solid numbers this season. Kyle Singler is definitely the better shooter from long range, but Marcus Ginyard has the advantage on defense.
Overall, I believe Singler is by far a better player than Ginyard. Advantage: Duke.
Final verdict: This will finally be the year that Duke takes both meetings with the rival Tar Heels. Carolina does not have near the depth and skill on both ends of the floor that the Blue Devils possess. Nolan Smith goes for 26 points and Scheyer has a solid game of 18 points and seven assists. Duke wins 81-70.