With just a few hours left before Duke takes on UNC in the Dean Dome, here are my keys to securing a victory over the Tar Heels.
1. Duke will have to have big games from its seniors.Â Mason Plumlee, Ryan Kelly, and Seth Curry have carried this team all year and tonight shouldn’t be any different.Â What I think Duke will need in addition is for at least one other person to step up and have a big game.Â It will likely come from either Quinn Cook or Rasheed Sulaimon.Â Sulaimon is the one player that I don’t think Carolina has an answer for.Â He is the one Dukie who is able to get his own shot and hit the mid-range jumper without the aid of a perfectly placed pass.Â Sheed can also slash against this smaller Carolina lineup.Â He should be able to get to the rim and either draw fouls or create scenarios for the big guys to get good looks off a dribble drive.Â For this to happen, of course, Sulaimon (who Coach K vocally called out this week) will have to have some carry-over from the way he ended the last game.Â After several mini-slumps this year, Sulaimon has the chance to make a name for himself in this rivalry.Â As of late, the numbers for point guard Quinn Cook have been much higher in the scoring department and lessening in the assist column.Â Cook will have to feel out this game and find the most effective way to impact this game, seeing those numbers even out a bit is the best case scenario, but just as he cannot neglect his own offense, he must also properly analyze each situation and make the appropriate play.
2. Duke will have to drastically increase its lust for the ball.Â Boxing out and rebounding has been an issue the entire season, against a smaller UNC lineup there is no excuse not to dominate this category.Â More so on the defensive end for Duke, limiting UNC to one and done on the shot attempts is a must.Â Duke will need to force the issue: in too many games this season and especially on the road the Devils have failed to match the passion of the opposing team.Â They did not put forth maximum effort on the boards and it has showed in the losses and even a few closer than necessary wins.Â The infusion of Ryan Kelly into the lineup and the emergence of Amile Jefferson off the bench should hopefully alleviate this particular deficiency.
3. Duke needs to put a lid on the long range shots of P.J. Hairston and Reggie Bullock, turn them into mid-range shooters or slashers, but do not let them have their way behind the 3 point line.Â Duke has done a good job all year defending the 3.Â Duke has held opponents to under 30% from beyond the arc, but the unfortunate stat is that Duke is allowing opponents to shoot 50% from 2 point range.Â The porous defense that Duke has displayed is the main reason for many of the losses that have occurred.Â Duke has done a mediocre job of defending the paint.Â As evidenced in the Miami games, Duke allowed free access to the lane and Miami destroyed Duke in Coral Gables and nearly had their number in Durham.Â Duke will need to do a better job of stopping the ball, and staying on their feet.Â I’m all for taking a charge, but when it becomes your only means of defense, it can get a little comical.Â Duke needs to body up and stand ground.Â It’s quickly becoming that time of year when refs are going to be a lot less likely to give the defender the benefit of the doubt and teams are well aware of the need to use a floater or a mid-range shot to counter this defense.
4. Carolina is going to want to run Duke and utilize its speed, but Duke may be better served to slow down this game some and not give Carolina so many chances on the offensive end.Â Make them grind it out, and Duke may well come away with a double-digit victory.Â That is not to say Duke shouldn’t run when the opportunity presents itself, just be aware and get back on defense as to not give UNC numbers on the break.Â Transition defense is an important aspect of beating a small lineup like the one UNC is planning on using against Duke.Â Knowing that James Michael McAdoo is hampered some by back issues, if Duke can get him in early foul trouble and force him to sit, this may limit his explosiveness.Â Injuries such as this tend to bother you less if you stay in motion, sitting and letting things relax is probably the recipe for tightness and stiffness.Â Just saying, its something.
Duke should expect a very confident and capable UNC team this time out.Â Duke will need to match their level of scrappiness early or this game could get out of hand.Â I’d like to see Duke go to Mason Plumlee early and often and run their offense through the senior big man. The x-factor for Duke will be Ryan Kelly and Rasheed Sulaimon: if both are hitting their shots, Duke should have this game well in hand.Â Hopefully early easy opportunities spur the shooters on to big games.