Game Preview by @RandyDunson – Battle of the Blues Round 1: Duke Blue Devils vs. UNC Tar Heels

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Game Preview

#18/19 Duke Blue Devils [18-5, 6-4] vs. #8/7 UNC Tar Heels [21-4, 9-2]

February 9, 2017 • 8:00 PM ET • Durham, NC • Cameron Indoor Stadium

Media: ESPN/ACC Network, Duke IMG Network Radio, Watch ESPN app

By Randy Dunson [Note: Please direct comments, suggestions, etc. to @RandyDunson]

Team Overviews

Duke

The 243rd edition of college basketball’s best rivalry takes place at Cameron Indoor Stadium Thursday when No. 18 Duke hosts No. 8 UNC. Duke has won four of the last five meetings overall and three of the last four at home. Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski is 43-39 against the Tar Heels. Duke has utilized nine different starting lineups this season. No starting lineup combination has played more than five games together.

Led by Luke Kennard (19.8), Duke is one of three major-conference teams with three players averaging at 15.0+ points (also Arizona State and UCLA). Kennard ranks third in the ACC with an average of 34.7 minutes per game. Despite the workload, he ranks third in the ACC in scoring and leads ACC guards with a .531 field goal percentage.

Jayson Tatum’s average of 15.8 points per game is on pace to rank sixth among freshmen in Duke history. He has a chance to become just the fifth freshman under Coach K to average at least 15.0 points and 6.0 rebounds.

Kennard, Tatum and Grayson Allen – Duke’s top three scorers – are shooting a combined .836 (250-of-299) from the free throw line. Duke’s best perimeter defender, Matt Jones also ranks fourth in the ACC in steals (1.7) and accounts for nearly a third of Duke’s steals on the season.

Duke is 10-1 this season and 35-3 in his career when Amile Jefferson has a team-high in rebounds.

 

Notables:

  • NA

Probable Starters

Guard – Freshman Frank Jackson

Guard – Junior Grayson Allen

Guard –Sophomore Luke Kennard

Forward – Freshman Jayson Tatum

Forward – Grad Student Amile Jefferson

UNC

Carolina returns to action on Thursday, February 9, at Duke. Game time is 8 PM

The Tar Heels are 21-4 overall and 9-2 in the ACC. Duke is 18-5, 6-4.

UNC is ranked eighth in the Associated Press and seventh in the USA Today/Coaches polls. Duke is 18th and 19th, respectively.

The coaches poll has ranked the Tar Heels higher than the AP poll in each of the last three weeks.

Carolina has won 20 or more games for the 59th time in school history and the 13th time in 14 years under head coach Roy Williams.

ACC play began this week with the Tar Heels atop the standings with a 9-2 league record.

Carolina is fourth in the NCAA’s RPI (1-Baylor, 2-Villanova, 3-Kansas, 4-UNC). The Tar Heels’ opponents collectively have the 13th-highest RPI in the nation.

Carolina has eight wins (8-1) over teams in the NCAA’s top 50, tied with Kansas (8-1) and Florida State (8-1) for second behind Baylor (9-3) for the most top-50 wins in the country.

Carolina is tied for third nationally with 13 wins (13-4) over teams in the NCAA’s top 100. Butler has 15, Villanova 14, and UNC and Kansas have 13.

The Tar Heels have scored at least 1.00 points per possession in six of the last eight games (all except .99 vs. Notre Dame and .75 in the loss at Miami).

Theo Pinson is questionable for the game at Duke. He has not played in the last three games against Miami, Pitt and Notre Dame after he rolled his right ankle on 1/26 against Virginia Tech. Pinson has averaged 6.2 points and 5.2 rebounds and had 20 assists and only 2 turnovers in the six games he played in this year. UNC is plus 114 in scoring and plus 53 in assist-turnovers in those six games.

Carolina has dropped from 10th to 34th in the country in defensive efficiency in the last five games.

Notables:

  • In the first 18 games, UNC held the opponents under 45 percent shooting from the floor 14 times; Tennessee and Kentucky were the only teams to shoot 50 percent from the floor.
  • In the last seven games, UNC has held three teams under 45 percent and Virginia Tech and Pitt both shot over 50 percent.
  • In the first 17 games, 12 opponents committed more turnovers than assists and only two had more assists than turnovers.
  • In the last eight games, six teams have more assists than turnovers and none have more turnovers than assists.
  • Nine of the first 14 opponents had a points per possession under .85; in ACC play, only one (NC State .66) has had a points per possession under .85.
  • Seven of the last eight opponents have points per possessions of at least .90 (.99 by Wake Forest, .93 by Syracuse, .96 by Boston College, 1.06 by Virginia Tech, .95 by Miami, 1.18 by Pitt and 1.03 by Notre Dame).
  • The opponents have had a points per possession greater than 1.0 in seven of the last nine halves.

Probable Starters

Guard – Junior Joel Berry II

Guard – Sophomore Kenny Williams

Forward – Senior Kennedy Meeks

Forward – Junior Justin Jackson

Forward – Senior Isaiah Hicks

Last Time Out

Duke

Mike Krzyzewski came out of the postgame handshake line and headed straight to midcourt, where he took a few bows of gratitude to the Duke fans and pumped his fist in the air. After a month away, Coach K wanted the Cameron Crazies to know how badly he missed them.

The 21st-ranked Blue Devils made Krzyzewski a winner in his return to the sideline after back surgery, beating Pittsburgh 72-64 on Saturday after Grayson Allen scored 18 of his 21 points in the second half.

Amile Jefferson added 15 points, freshman Jayson Tatum had 12 and Luke Kennard added 10 to help Duke (18-5, 6-4 Atlantic Coast Conference) win its third straight.

Michael Young scored 24 points and Jamel Artis added 17 for the Panthers (12-11, 1-9), who have lost eight straight but the ACC’s last-place team gave its preseason favorite fits all game.

Pitt had the ball down 63-59 when Artis missed a 3-pointer in transition with about 1 1/2 minutes left. Allen countered with the shot of the day — a 3 with the shot clock winding down that bounced high off the front iron, then straight through, putting Duke up by seven with 49.7 seconds remaining.

By then, Krzyzewski could finally exhale in his first game back on the bench in a month.

He underwent surgery January 6 to have a fragment of a herniated disk removed from his lower back, and in announcing his return Thursday night, the winningest men’s coach in Division I history revealed that he’s been attending practice for about 1 1/2 weeks.

The Blue Devils went 4-3 with associate head coach Jeff Capel running things in the interim, winning their previous two games on the road in a span of 48 hours.

Nothing came easy in this one, with Pitt leading for about 8 minutes and neither team leading by more than six points until there were about 5 minutes left.

Notables:

  • Just about all the key players are healthy again — the exception is Matt Jones, who Krzyzewski said was hurt in practice this week — and so is the Hall of Fame coach. The Blue Devils’ roster composition more closely resembles the team they were expected to be when they were picked No. 1 in the preseason Top 25.
  • Now they’ve got to start playing that way, and Krzyzewski says the team is better now that it was when he left because it’s developed toughness and togetherness.
  • “The two single biggest things in developing, really, something good are preparation and continuity,” Krzyzewski said. “And this group has been denied a lot of preparation and continuity, bottom line. So what we’re trying to do is give a Cliff’s Notes” version of those attributes.
  • Pitt held Duke to 3-of-13 shooting from 3-point range in the first half. The Blue Devils hit 8 3s in the second. “We told our team (at halftime) if we hold them to three (3s) this half, then this could have a happy ending,” Stallings said.

UNC

Justin Jackson led six Tar Heels in double figures, Carolina out-rebounded Notre Dame by 19 and went on a late 8-0 run to beat the Irish, 83-76.

The game was postponed a day to 2/5 and was played at the Greensboro Coliseum because of a water shortage in Chapel Hill that closed the University for almost two days.

UNC led by 15 with 12 minutes to play, but Notre Dame cut the lead to 75-73 before a jump shot by Joel Berry II and a steal by Nate Britt/dunk by Jackson ignited the 8-0 run.

The win improves UNC to 119-33 in Greensboro, including 113-30 in the Greensboro Coliseum.

Carolina had 23 assists on 30 baskets. Carolina out-rebounded the Irish, 44-25, including a 17-7 edge in offensive rebounds. Carolina is 21-1 when it out-rebounds the opponents. Carolina had 17 offensive rebounds, one less than Notre Dame had defensive.

Carolina scored 19 second-chance points. Carolina out-scored the Irish, 40-18, in the paint. Both teams made 17 free throws; Notre Dame took eight fewer attempts to get there. It was the ninth time in 11 ACC games the Tar Heels scored 80 or more points.

Carolina is 19-1 this year and 257-29 under Roy Williams when scoring 80 or more points. Six Tar Heels scored in double figures for the first time since Oklahoma State on 11/22/16. It was the fifth straight game and the ninth time in the last dozen games Jackson topped UNC in scoring.

Kenny Williams scored eight points in the first half; he had seven points total in the previous three games combined. Williams (11 total) scored in double figures for the first time in seven games since he had 12 at Wake Forest on 1/11. Williams made three three-pointers, most since he hit five against Radford on 12/4/16.

Joel Berry and Nate Britt did not score in the first half but combined for eight assists; they combined for 12 assists for the game. Tony Bradley matched his season high with three blocks, scored 12 points, and grabbed five rebounds. It was Bradley’s second game in double figures in ACC play (11 vs. NC State) and his 11th double-figure game of the year. Britt had five assists, most in an ACC game this year and most since he had five vs. Tennessee.

Notables:

  • NA

Head-to-Head

Carolina leads the all-time series with Duke, 134-108. The Blue Devils have won 11 of the last 15 meetings in the series (since the start of the 2009-10 season). UNC had won six of seven from 2006-09.

UNC is 47-52 against Duke in Durham, including 36-43 in Cameron Indoor Stadium. UNC is 41-47 all-time in Cameron, including games against teams other than Duke.

Head coach Roy Williams is 11-16 at Carolina against Duke, including 6-7 at Cameron.

The Tar Heels have played 242 games against Duke, more than any other opponent has.

Duke has shot 50 percent from the floor against UNC just four times in 27 games against Carolina in the Roy Williams era (the 2011 ACC final in Greensboro, 2013 in Chapel Hill, 2014 in Durham and 2015 in Durham).

Carolina is 41-43 against Mike Krzyzewski’s Duke teams.

Carolina and Duke have won 37 of the ACC’s 63 Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament championships, including 19 by Duke and 18 by UNC.

Carolina and Duke are No. 1 and 2 all-time in the ACC in wins, ACC regular-season wins, ACC Tournament wins and NCAA Tournament wins.

Statistics

[National ranking in parentheses.]
Duke 2016-17 Regular Season Key Stats Comparison UNC
14.7 (15) PPG (Scoring Margin) 16.1 (5)
67.9 (62) Opponents PPG 72.0 (162)
55..1 (31) Effective FG% 52.6 (86)
48.4 (24) FG% 46.9 (54)
42.9 (121) Opponent FG% 42.0 (74)
36.8 (101) 3PT FG% 37.6 (63)
30.1 (10) Opponent 3PT FG% 34.3 (132)
5.3 (45) RPG (Rebound Margin) 13.7 (1)
32.5 (44) Opponent RPG 31.4 (22)
74.5 (53) FT% 70.6 (155)
14.0 (127) APG 18.5 (3)
6.5 (12) SPG (%) 8.6 (162)
1.9 (68) Turnovers Per Game (Margin) 2.0 (65)
13.8 (122) Opponent TOPG 14.5 (79)
4.3 (70) BPG 3.4 (147)
18.7 (136) Fouls Per Game 18 (90)

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/.] [D-1 Average in parentheses.]

Duke

eFG& TO% OR% FTRate
55.0 (33) 16.7 (49) 32.8 (76) 40.2 (64)

UNC

eFG& TO% OR% FTRate
52.6 (86) 17.0 (62) 42.8 (1) 36.1 (159)

Summary

The 18th ranked Duke Blue Devils will host the eighth ranked North Carolina Tar Heels in an ACC showdown Thursday night from the Cameron Indoor Stadium in Durham, NC. The Tar Heels are coming off a solid 83-76 win over Notre Dame, and Duke defeated Pittsburgh 72-64 this past weekend. Each team notched a win on the road in last year’s head-to-head action with the Tar Heels winning the latest meeting by a 76-72 score at Duke.

The North Carolina Tar Heels continued to score big points in their 83-76 home win over the Fighting Irish on Sunday in a game that was re-located to Greensboro. The Tar Heels had no problem with the Notre Dame defense, shooting a solid 49%, and out-rebounded the Fighting Irish by a wide 44-24 margin. The Tar Heels spread out their scoring nicely as all five starters reached double-digits in points. Justin Jackson led the way with 16 points on 6 for 15 shooting. The 6-foot-8 forward is red hot, scoring at least 19 points in eight out of his last nine games, and is now averaging 18.6 points per game. Joel Berry II added 12 points along with seven assists in the win, but went just 3 for 10 from the field. The junior guard has slowed down a bit over his last five games but overall he is having a terrific season, now averaging 14.9 points, and leads the team with a 42% efficiency from three-point territory. North Carolina’s defense has not been very impressive this season, and they will be tested heavily in this one in front of an intimidating crowd. The Tar Heels have responded with two straight wins following their loss to Miami, and lead the ACC with a 9-2 conference record.

North Carolina continues to put up big numbers, now averaging 87.8 points per game, good for fifth in the Country, and are shooting 47.3% from the field. The Tar Heels are allowing an average of 71.6 points per game, placing them 164th overall.

The Duke Blue Devils exploded for 44 points in the second half to top Pittsburgh by a 72-64 score this past weekend. The Blue Devils shot 45.5% from the field, and while the Panthers were able to shoot 51%, they only went 2 for 14 from beyond the arc. Grayson Allen led the offensive charge with 21 points, which include five three-pointers. The junior guard is playing well right now, scoring at least 19 points in three straight games, and is now second in team scoring with 15.8 points per game. Duke’s leading scorer Luke Kennard went just 4 for 12 from the field, finishing with ten points. The sophomore guard is a great shooter, posting a team best 45.8% shooting from three-point territory, and is now averaging 19.8 points per game, ranking him third in the ACC in scoring. Duke has now won three straight games and are still alive for the top spot in the ACC standings, just 2.5 games back of North Carolina with a 6-4 conference record. A win in this one would really put Duke in serious contention for top spot in the ACC. The Blue Devils moved up from 21st to 18th in the Top 25 Rankings this week.

Duke features great scoring depth, are now scoring an average of 82.5 points per game, ranking them 20th in the country, and own a 48.2 field goal percentage. The Blue Devils are solid defensively as well, conceding an average of 67.9 points per game, placing them 69th overall.

Keys to the Game:

  • Joel Berry could exploit Duke’s lack of a true PG at both ends of the floor
  • Duke must win the battle of the boards; the stats are somewhat confusing in that it appears that UNC may be dominant but Duke has the edge in several categories
  • Perhaps the key player matchup will be Justin Jackson vs. Jayson Tatum; obviously Jackson is the more mature of the two but Tatum should be able hold his own
  • Duke desperately needs its bench to produce but there are still injury issues shortening the bench

Endgame

It’s pretty simple for Duke in this game. If Duke rebounds, and plays defense they win. If they allow UNC to outrebound them as they did last year without Amile Jefferson then they will lose. Transition defense will be paramount in this game.  UNC will push tempo on misses and makes and Duke will need to get back quickly. This has not been a strong suit of this team this year. Defense and rebounding are as much about desire as they are positioning. Duke will need to be willing defenders with heads on swivels.

In terms of how the bookies see things, both teams have the ability to play strong defense, which is especially the case with Duke who defends the three well. The under has been a common trend for the Tar Heels as of late and it will not be easy for them to have their usual success especially on the road, plus the under is 4-0 in the Tar Heels last four games. The under hit in both meetings last season and I think this will be a close hard fought battle again in this one, and the under is 11-5 in the last 16 meetings between these teams.

I am taking Duke in this contest. North Carolina does not play strong defense which is a concern going against this Duke squad on the road. The Tar Heels are allowing an average of 76.3 points over their 11 ACC games, and 81.4 points over their four ACC road games this season. Duke is locked in right now, and I think they play the better defense. Duke is outstanding when it comes to defending the three, holding the opposition to just 30% shooting from three-point territory, so I expect them to slow down the Tar Heels offense. Duke is 11-1 at home this season, and I really like the Blue Devils at home with this reasonable spread. Duke wins 85-80.

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