Duke Blue Devils (27-3, 14-3] vs. UNC Tar Heels (21-9, 11-6]
Saturday, March 7, 2015 • 9:00 PM • ESPN • Chapel Hill, N.C. • Dean E. Smith Center
By Randy Dunson
Duke (27-3, 14-3) concludes the regular season against North Carolina (21-9, 11-6) Saturday, March 7 at the Dean E. Smith Center. Tipoff is set for 9:10 PM with Dan Shulman, Jay Bilas, and Shannon Spake calling the action for ESPN. The Blue Devils enter the game ranked No. 3 in both the AP Poll and USA Today Coaches Poll. Duke has won four straight games and is 114-23 overall when ranked No. 3 in the AP Poll. North Carolina enters the contest ranked No. 19 in the AP Poll. Duke is 11-7 all-time against the No. 19 team in the poll. The Blue Devils are ranked No. 4 in the latest Ratings Percentage Index with a 5-1 mark against teams rated in the top 25. Three of Duke’s five wins against the top 25 have come on the road (at Wisconsin, at Louisville, at Virginia). Duke’s road/neutral site RPI is ranked No. 1 in the NCAA. Duke has won 10 straight games, the program’s fifth double-digit win streak this decade.
North Carolina (21-9, 11-6 ACC) will play its final regular season game of 2014-15 and host Duke (27-3, 14-3) for senior night on Saturday in the Smith Center. ESPN’s College Gameday program will originate from the Smith Center for its 10 a.m.-noon pregame show and its evening programming and SportsCenter cut-ins. Carolina will be playing Duke for the second time in its final six games of the regular season. Just over two weeks ago, the Blue Devils beat the Tar Heels, 92-90, in overtime in Durham on February 18. UNC is No. 19 in this week’s AP and coaches polls. The Tar Heels are No. 13 in the KenPom.com ratings. Duke is No. 3 in both polls and No. 8 by KenPom. The Tar Heels enter the regular season finale with an ACC record of 11-6, tied with Louisville for fourth place behind Virginia (16-1), Duke (14-3), and Notre Dame (13-4). Virginia will be the top seed in next week’s ACC Tournament, Duke will be the No. 2 seed and Notre Dame will be No. 3. Carolina can be either the No. 4 or No. 5 seed, depending on this weekend’s results, including Saturday’s Louisville-Virginia game. The top four seeds receive byes to Thursday’s quarterfinal round. Seeds 5-10 get a bye to Wednesday’s second round. Seeds 11-14 will play in the first round on Tuesday.
2. Last Time Out
In its last outing, Duke capped off its home schedule with a commanding 94-51 win over Wake Forest Wednesday. Five Blue Devils scored in double figures with Grayson Allen leading the way with a season-high 27 points. Allen was 9-of-11 from the field, including 4-of-5 from three-point range, and 5-of-6 from the foul line en route to his first career 20-point game. Justise Winslow had an outstanding all-around game, finishing with 13 points, six rebounds, seven assists and six steals in 25 minutes of action, while Matt Jones tallied 17 points and four rebounds. Quinn Cook (13) and Tyus Jones (10) combined for 23 points, nine rebounds, seven assists and three steals. Duke raced out to a 52-15 halftime lead with the 37-point margin tied for the ninth largest gap at intermission in program history.
- Duke started 27-3 during the 2010, 2005, and 2001 seasons (since 1996).
- The win over Wake Forest extended the Duke winning streak to 10 games.
- This was the 10th blowout win this season (a win by 20 or more points). Over the past five seasons, Duke has been on the winning end of 66 blowout games.
- The Blue Devils have won every game this season (5-0) after recording 34 or more field goals made.
- Has won every game this season (7-0) when its field goal percentage has been 57.6 percent or better.
- Has won 91 percent of the time this season (10-1) after committing 12 or fewer turnovers.
- Has won every game this season (11-0) when opponents record 22 or fewer field goals made.
- Has won every game this season (14-0) after holding an opponent to under 41.5 percent field goal percentage.
- Has won 87 percent of the time (20-3) when Quinn Cook has 13 points or more, 95 percent of the time (18-1) when Tyus Jones plays 32 minutes or more, and 100 percent of the time (10-0) when Justise Winslow has six field goals made or more.
- The Blue Devils set a season high for steals (12).
- Duke has outshot their opponents in field goal percentage for the past six games.
- This was the 16th game at home this season, Duke had a 23.8 average scoring margin against opponents at home.
- The top two scorers (Grayson Allen and Matt Jones) accounted for 46.8 percent of the points.
- Justise Winslow recorded a team season high in steals with six.
- Has led the team in rebounding in seven out of 30 games this season.
- Has 11 straight double-digit point games.
- This marks the first 20-point game of Grayson Allen’s career.
- Quinn Cook has seven straight double-digit point games.
- Amile Jefferson had a career high with a 100 percent field goal percentage.
In its last outing, Freshman Joel Berry II scored a season-high 15 points and classmate Justin Jackson scored 13 as Carolina dominated Georgia Tech, 81-49, on Tuesday night (March 3) in Atlanta. Carolina’s defense held Georgia Tech to 32.8 percent shooting in the game overall, including 28.1 percent in the second half. Meanwhile, the Tar Heels shot 60.7 percent in the second half and 53.1 percent for the game. Georgia Tech’s 49 points are the fewest allowed by Carolina this season and the fewest since Mississippi State had 49 on November 19, 2012, in the Maui Invitational against UNC. The 32-point win was Carolina’s largest win over the Yellow Jackets in Atlanta. The previous high was a 76-51 win on Feb. 25, 1981. It was UNC’s largest overall win over Georgia Tech since 92-55 win on January 24, 1987, in Chapel Hill. The 32-point margin was Carolina’s biggest road victory since a 32-point win at Boston College in February 2011. Berry had 14 total points in five games since January 10th, but scored a season-high 15 in Atlanta. Marcus Paige had a career high 6 steals and hit his 200th career three-pointer in the game. It was the first time all season that the only Tar Heels in double figures were freshmen, 15 by Berry and 13 by Jackson. The three UNC freshmen shot a combined 13 of 21 from the floor.
- This was the ninth blowout win this season (a win by 20 or more points). Over the past five seasons, UNC has been on the winning end of 43 blowout games.
- North Carolina has won every game this season (7-0) when its field goal percentage has been 53.1 percent or better.
- Have won every game this season (4-0) after recording 11 or more steals.
- Has won every game this season (7-0) when opponents record eight or fewer assists.
- Has won 89 percent of the time (8-1) when Justin Jackson has 13 points or more, 77 percent of the time (10-3) when J.P.Tokoto has four field goals made or more, and 82 percent of the time (9-2) when Brice Johnson has nine rebounds or more.
- Have recorded more assists than their opponents for the past five games.
- Marcus Paige recorded a team season high in steals with six.
- The bench recorded more points (43) than the starters (38).
- Brice Johnson has led the team in rebounding in 10 out of 30 games this season.
- Marcus Paige had a career high with six steals.
- Justin Jackson has four straight double-digit point games.
Carolina leads the all-time series with Duke, 133-106. The Tar Heels have played more games against Duke than against any other opponent. The Blue Devils beat Carolina, 92-90, in overtime on February 18 in Durham. The teams split a pair of meetings last year with each team winning on its home court. UNC is 61-34 against Duke in Chapel Hill and 16-13 in the Smith Center. The Blue Devils have won nine of the last 12 meetings in the series (since the start of the 2009-10 season). UNC had won six of seven from 2006-09. Roy Williams is 5-6 against Duke in games played in the Smith Center. The Tar Heels are 7-4 under Williams in all second meetings of a regular season with the Blue Devils.
In terms of a few key offensive and defensive statistical parameters, Duke has the edge in all of the categories except rebounding, assists, & blocks, which give the Blue Devils a solid statistical edge head-to-head.
|Duke||2014-15 Regular Season Key Stats Comparison||UNC|
|81.2 (+15.8)||PPG (Scoring Margin)||78.2 (+10.5)|
|31.7||Opponent 3PT FG%||29.3|
|37.9 (+6.8)||RPG (Rebound Margin)||42.1 (+8.6)|
|11.5 (+1.2)||Turnovers Per Game (Margin)||12.6 (.1)|
4. Four Factors to Winning[If you wish to learn more about how the four factors are calculated and implemented, a description can always be found here, https://www.dukeblogger.com/four-factors-winning/.]
Duke has the edge over UNC in all factors except one, offensive rebounding. UNC’s edge in offensive rebounding is 40.6% vs. 37.4%. When it comes to getting to the free throw line, Duke’s edge is 41.1% vs. 35.9%. Duke is shooting the ball more efficiently (eFG%) at 57.2% vs. 50.9% and handling the ball better (17.0% vs. 17.9%).
5. Key Points to Consider
First, a few points regarding both team’s overall profile at this point:
- Two main scorers (Cook/Okafor); Jones/Winslow close behind
- Makes the most of its possessions
- Doesn’t send teams to the line often
- Highly efficient attack
- Unselfish, balanced offense
- Makes the most of its possessions
- Hard to score against
Now, a few key points to consider. These may often carry over to future games but keys specific to a current opponent will always be mentioned.
- Ankle Woes
- With as thin a rotation as Duke has, it can ill afford to lose anyone because of injury. The Blue Devils have been relatively lucky in that respect, but a series of recent rolled ankles are making every misstep a moment for fans to hold their breath
- Freshman center Jahlil Okafor missed the February 21 game against Clemson after hurting his ankle during the previous game against North Carolina, but he has since come back without any lingering problems. Then in Wednesday’s blowout victory over Wake Forest, both freshman forward Justise Winslow and junior forward Amile Jefferson suffered ankle injuries though both were soon back on the court and looked good.
- Guards Quinn Cook and Grayson Allen have also had ankle sprains in the past month.
- Defense, Defense, Defense
- Duke holds opponents to 65.3 points per game and 42.8 percent shooting, but on numerous occasions, it has had major defensive breakdowns that have led to losses or stressful victories.
- It is widely considered that the Blue Devils’ play on the defensive end is what will dictate how far they go in the postseason, and time is running out to work on this area.
- The past two games have served as a turning point, though, as Duke held Syracuse and Wake Forest to 52.5 points per game and 35.7 percent shooting. Neither team is particularly adept on the offensive end, but in the previous meetings, those teams averaged 68.5 points per game and shot 48.3 percent.
- Now comes a matchup with a North Carolina team that put up 90 points (albeit in overtime) and were able to dominate inside at times. The Blue Devils made adjustments to shut down key Syracuse and Wake Forest players who lit them up the first time, and if they can continue to make those improvements, their defense will not be as much of a liability.
- Bench Improvement
- Duke has six guys who average 20 minutes per game, with sophomore guard Matt Jones taking Amile Jefferson’s starting spot the last three games. After that, though, the playing time really drops off, with freshman Grayson Allen and junior Marshall Plumlee playing eight or more minutes.
- Yet Allen came up huge Wednesday, scoring a career-high 27 points on 9-of-11 shooting including 4-of-5 on three pointers in 24 minutes. Prior to that game, Allen had scored 74 points and made 10 threes in 25 games.
- Those numbers were heavily aided by the opponent (Wake Forest) and the margin of victory, but Allen also saw significant time in the first half. He played 18 minutes and scored 10 in the Clemson game when Duke was without Jahlil Okafor, so he is making the most of his opportunities.
- Is There a Revenge Factor?
- Duke is trying to pull the regular-season sweep of North Carolina for the second time in three years and the third time since 2010. However, the way the last game went down, what was already going to be a tough task is that much more difficult.
- The Blue Devils rallied from down 10 points with less than three minutes left to force overtime before controlling the extra session and winning 92-90. The game was full of runs, with Duke jumping out big at the outset only to see the Tar Heels fight back late in the first half and go on a 13-0 run early in the second half to take control of the momentum.
- It was another instant classic between the teams, and it was only a little more than two weeks ago. The memories have not faded yet for UNC, and the Tar Heels will be itching to get revenge and potentially impact Duke’s NCAA tournament seed.
- Seed Scenarios
- Duke is locked into the No. 2 spot in the ACC tournament, regardless of what happens this weekend, because if it were to end up tied for second place with Notre Dame, the Blue Devils win the second tiebreaker (after head-to-head, which was 1-1) by virtue of their victory over first-place Virginia.
- The Devils’ NCAA tourney seed, however, remains in limbo.
- There are were variety of scenarios for the final week of the regular season and the ACC tourney and the impact it would have on Duke getting a No. 1 seed. All of those scenarios remain in play, as they all included Duke beating Wake Forest, but beyond that, it is fluid.
- Beating North Carolina on Saturday lessens the effect that losing in the ACC tournament would have on Duke’s hope of being on the top-seed line. Lose to the Tar Heels, though, and the Blue Devils might need to win the conference tourney to stay as a No. 1.
Duke is one game away from finishing its regular season schedule after beating the Wake Forest Demon Deacons on Wednesday, 94-51. However, do not expect the Blue Devils to take it easy as they engage fierce nemesis North Carolina in a rematch on Saturday.
In the first meeting with the Tar Heels, Jahlil Okafor (12 points, 13 rebounds) took a backseat and let Tyus Jones and Quinn Cook drive Duke to a 92-90 victory on February 18. Jones completely outplayed North Carolina counterpart Marcus Paige, tallying 22 points, adding seven rebounds, and seven assists. Cook, on the other hand, had 22 points on 7-of-15 shooting from the field, which included six threes on nine attempts. The duo’s combined nine turnovers, however, helped North Carolina keep the game close, despite being an 8.5-point road underdog.
Overall, Duke finished with 21 turnovers, which partly explains why it was massively outshot by North Carolina, 83-65. Limiting those turnovers will go a long way for Duke, which enters Saturday’s contest 66th in the nation in defensive efficiency with 96.4 points allowed per opponents’ 100 possessions.
Duke’s reserves must also find a way to join the scoring parade this time around. Duke’s bench was heavily outscored by North Carolina’s backups, 32-7. Grayson Allen seems to be up to the task based on his scoring outburst in the Wake Forest game, where he dropped a season-high 27 points off the bench.
Regardless of what is on the line, beating Duke will always be a sweet victory for the Tar Heels. It will help them do just that if Paige can get it together, and if they could find a way to contain Duke’s overpowering offense. Paige, who leads the team in scoring with 13.2 points per game, chose the wrong night to struggle with his shot, as he finished with just five points in front of a national audience on a poor 2-of-11 shooting from the field versus Duke. Since that defeat, Paige has been inconsistent on offense. He put up 13 and 17 points against Georgia Tech and Miami (FL), respectively, while coming up with identical seven-point outputs in the NC State game and in North Carolina’s 81-49 win on Tuesday against Georgia Tech.
Justin Jackson, meanwhile, was also out of his element in the February showdown with Duke. He scored just two points on a miserable 1-of-8 field goal shooting. However, unlike Paige, Jackson seemed to have rounded back to form of late, averaging 12.8 points and 4.5 rebounds over the last four games. Thus far this season, the 6-8 guard-forward is averaging 9.9 points and 3.8 rebounds per game.
However, even with Paige and Jackson conspicuously struggling, North Carolina was able to hang with Duke behind the solid games of Kennedy Meeks, Brice Johnson, J.P. Tokoto, combined for 51 points, and a stout bench.
North Carolina has allowed its last three opponents to average a paltry 57 points per game on a poor 36.6 percent clip. In addition, opponents have shot just 23.7 percent from the three-point area in those games.
Even though this is Carolina’s night, I think that the Devils can once again put injuries and fatigue aside to prevail 81-74
PS: Theo Pinson Returns
When he went down with a broken foot earlier in the season, his first thought revolved around scheduling. Specifically, if he could be back for the final North Carolina-Duke game of the season. “When I went down, I thought ‘I’m not going to be able to play in the first one, I’ve got to play in this one,’” Pinson said. “I’m from North Carolina, and this is a big-time game” (Greensboro News and Record). Whether he is a factor in this game remains to be seen.