By JOHN P. WISE
One Great Season
Sports fans—even worse, broadcasters—love to say that you can throw out the record books when "these bitter rivals get together."
They'll tell you it doesn't matter how badly North Carolina might be struggling, that no extra practice or motivational speech is needed for the Tar Heels to get up for a game against rival Duke.
The No. 8 Blue Devils (19-4, 7-2 ACC) make the short bus ride to Chapel Hill to take on UNC (13-10, 2-6) Wednesday night (ESPN, 9 p.m. ET) to renew one of the best rivalries in college sports.
North Carolina is not good. A preseason No. 6 ranking and early wins over Michigan State and Ohio State offered up nothing more than fool's gold. The Tar Heels have long been loaded with McDonald's All-Americans and stacked with talent at every position, particularly in the backcourt in recent years.
But Larry Drew II is not Ty Lawson. Nor is he Raymond Felton. Shoot, he isn't even Ed Cota.
UNC's problems run far deeper than Drew, and as the point guard goes, so go the Heels under coach Roy Williams. Ed Davis is a nice interior player, but the supporting cast around these two, while not lacking talent, just isn't even coming close to clicking.
Duke, on the other hand, has been waiting for a game like this against its hated neighbor. I suspect Mike Krzyzewski will keep his foot on the gas once his team earns its first double-digit advantage, which should be about three minutes in. The Devils have lost three straight in this series and six of the last seven meetings, so look for a payback-driven rout.
Annoyingly scrappy John Scheyer (can't wait until next year so we'll never have to see him play basketball ever again) and backcourt mate Nolan Smith average 37 points a game between them. Devils Scheyer, Smith, and Kyle Singler are among the top seven scorers in the ACC.
If you scan the league standings, you'll see North Carolina is looking up at nine teams above it. That's usually the case during football season, but when a potent Duke team which has designs on a deep March run gets to visit an inferior North Carolina team in the best rivalry in college basketball, I can't help but think the Devils will want to stick it to the home team.
And that's exactly what will happen at the Dean E. Smith Center Wednesday night, when Duke could very well put up 100 against the NIT-bound Tar Heels.