It’s the greatest rivalry in basketball without question and it revives tonight at the #1 Duke Blue Devils meet the #8 UNC Blue Devils in what is probably the biggest regular season matchup of the year for pretty much any team. The hype is there– even a former president is rumored to be attending and ticket prices are reportedly, at minimum, currently $2,927– but the game, at least on our side, may even be better.
Duke is currently on a big high ride. Since losing to Syracuse at home a few weeks ago, we’ve beaten UVA, gotten Tre Jones, beaten a bunch of teams in the ACC including a St. John’s squad that’s proven itself against high-level competition (and it wasn’t close), defeated UVA again, on the road, and then come back from a 23-point deficit to defeat #16 Louisville (also on the road). This whole season feels like a high ride currently.
UNC is good. That’s what I’ll say. They probably feel undervalued in our shadow, but that doesn’t mean they’re not dangerous.
Coby White has been an absolute star this year: he’s sometimes a bit up-and-down but he’s shown the ability to do it on the big stage– and as previously stated, he’ll be just there. White has scored over 30 on two occasions and is the main weapon on offense for the Tar Heels, though his average is a lower 15.7, at least in comparison. In addition, he’s a capable if inexperienced point guard– though an assist-to-turnover ratio that stands just over 1.5 isn’t terribly flattering. On Duke’s side, Tre Jones looks to shut him down– something he’s done to other star players, such as St. John’s Shamorie Ponds, one of the best in the country. Ponds did not score until the second half with Tre guarding him. He is something of the likes White is yet to see and we’ll see how he handles this new pressure.
The assist-to-turnover ratio as aforementioned hasn’t been flattering for much of any of the Tar Heels; turnovers have been a problem and that’s not something you want entering a matchup with Duke. We force an unusual number of turnovers on good ballhandling teams; UNC will have to limit the live-ball turnovers because once that ball is in RJ Barrett’s hands and the court is open wide, it’s a done deal.
On the other side of the court for the Tar Heels, figuring out how to try to defend Zion Williamson is one big “dadgummit” for Roy Williams. Williams heaped (deserved) praise on him for a good bit of a press conference a few days ago: “Name somebody else that’s got that skillset that he has because in the college game I’ve never seen it.” He continued to talk about Zion’s combo of size and athleticism; the question is how to defend it. Carolina doesn’t have a Virginia-like inside presence; heck, most teams don’t have that, however, it means it won’t be able to do what Virginia could in jamming the inside while giving up exterior shots. Technically they could, however it’s unlikely to be as fruitful and based on how we shot in Charlottesville (hint hint, big stage, hint hint), you don’t want to leave that open either. It’s a tall order.
We know our guys love the big stage. Time to see it in action.
Bleed blue. It’s Duke-Carolina and as much backdrop as you can give, it comes down to this:
Who wants it most?
Bleed blue. OUR blue.
Note: I’ve just realized that I didn’t hit “publish”! So sorry for the late preview! Go Duke.