Duke (19-5, 8-3) – University of North Carolina (UNC) (16-7, 6-4) Preview
Randy Dunson & Brian Horace
February 12, 2014
Duke hits the road again for the fourth time in the past five games this Wednesday when it takes the short bus ride over to the ‘Dean Dome’ in Chapel Hill, NC to play its arch rival UNC. The Blue Devils are 6-5 away from Cameron Indoor Stadium this season, including 3-3 in true road games. They are ranked No. 8 in the Associated Press Poll and No. 9 in the USA Today Coaches’ Poll. The Blue Devils are 18-2 against unranked opponents this season with their only losses coming on the road against ACC foes Notre Dame (77-79) and Clemson (59-72).
The UNC Tar Heels were picked to finish third in the ACC by the media. So far, they have not lived up to those expectations; however, they are arguably playing some their best basketball at this point in the season. UNC has been an up and down team with quality wins against Louisville, Michigan State, and Kentucky but quality losses against unranked opponents like Belmont and UAB. The Heels are currently on a five-game win streak in ACC play entering the first of two games with Duke this season. UNC is currently unranked, a position that is foreign to them particularly at this point. The Tar Heels are 3-3 against ranked opponents.
Team Seasons Thus Far
UNC Tar Heels
In its last outing, UNC’s James Michael McAdoo scored 18 points, Marcus Paige added 16, and North Carolina dominated inside after a slow start to defeat Notre Dame 73-62 Saturday for the fifth straight victory for the Tar Heels. The Tar Heels, which started 0-3 in the ACC, improved to 2-3 in the league on the road. After being held without a fast break basket in the first half, the Heels had three in the first four minutes after intermission and finished with an 8-0 edge in fast break points leading to a 35-25 lead. The Tar Heels extended the lead to 44-30 on a dunk by Brice Johnson after J.P. Tokoto stole the ball from Notre Dame point guard Eric Atkins and later opened a 57-41 lead on a fast break layup Paige. North Carolina forced 17 turnovers by the Irish, their second highest total of the season. It was Notre Dame’s eighth loss in its last 10 games. McAdoo added eight rebounds for North Carolina and Tokoto had 13 points and seven rebounds. Johnson added 10 points. The Tar Heels will host another ranked opponent in the Smith Center after the Duke game when Pitt comes to town on Saturday, February 15. Carolina will play four of its last six regular season games on the road after their back-to-back home games.
UNC’s five wins during its current winning streak have all come by double-digit margins. The Tar Heels are above .500 in the ACC for the first time after starting 0-3 and 1-4 in the conference. Sophomore guard Marcus Paige (17.0 PPG, 4.6 APG) is shooting an ACC-best 90.3 percent from the free throw line this year, ranking eighth in the nation. Carolina ranks 22nd in the nation in assists per game (15.9) and 24th in field goal percentage defense (.392). The Tar Heels averaged 56.3 points in their first three ACC games (losses to Wake Forest, Miami, and Syracuse) but have averaged 76.7 in the last six games (4-1). Junior forward James Michael McAdoo (15.0 PPG, 6.8 RPG) has been very good in ACC games. In conference games only, he ranks among the leaders in scoring (13th), field goal percentage (third), rebounding (sixth), and offensive rebounding (second). McAdoo has scored in double figures in 15 consecutive games and 18 contests overall this season. Freshman forward Kennedy Meeks (7.4 PPG, 6.2 RPG) has grabbed 40 rebounds in the last five games (8.0 RPG). A key area of strength for North Carolina is offensive rebounding percentage at 38.4, which ranks second in their conference (and 17th nationally). UNC is 5-0 this year when shooting 50 percent or better from the floor and 3-0 when shooting 50 percent in both halves (Louisville, Boston College, and Clemson). In nine ACC games, UNC is shooting .431 as a team, including .293 (39 for 133) from three-point range. Paige is averaging 35.6 minutes per game this season, which would be the most by any player in Head Coach Roy Williams’ era at UNC if the season were to end today. Rounding out the Tar Heels top players (in terms of MPG) are sophomore forward J.P. Tokoto (9.0 PPG, 5.8 RPG), freshman guard Nate Britt (5.2 PPG, 2.4 APG), and sophomore forward Brice Johnson (10.1 PPG, 6.2 RPG). Roy Williams has 297 wins at Carolina, needing three more for 300 as a Tar Heel. He is 297-86 at UNC, 715-187 overall and 122-49 in ACC regular season games.
Duke Blue Devils
Duke overcame an uninspiring first half to come away with a convincing road win at Boston College, 89-68. Duke used the starting lineup of Rodney Hood, Amile Jefferson, Jabari Parker, Tyler Thornton, and Rasheed Sulaimon for the second straight game and third time this season. Parker has started all 24 games for Duke this season. The Blue Devils hit 11-of-21 (52%) three-pointers, marking the fourth straight game, and 14th time this season Duke has hit double-digit three-pointers. Duke is shooting 51-of-108 (.472) from three-point range during its current four-game streak. Parker scored a career-high 29 points and Quinn Cook added 21, giving Duke a 20-point scorer in 19 of 24 games. The Blue Devils got 27 points from its bench, marking the fifth straight game that Duke reserves have contributed at least 25 points. Cook contributed 21 of those with four three-pointers. Rebounding, especially on the offensive end, has become a newfound prowess as Duke grabbed double-digit offensive rebounds for the seventh straight game and converted those into 22 second-chance points. In conference play, Duke is averaging 12.9 offensive rebounds per game, which ranks third in the ACC. Duke played its 242nd consecutive game as a ranked team. The Blue Devils are 201-41 (.831) during that run, which began at the start of the 2007-08 season.
Duke is shooting 42 percent (232-of-552) from three-point range this season while averaging 9.6 made three-pointers per game. Andre Dawkins leads the ACC in three-point shooting percentage, hitting 47.8 percent (55-of-115) of his shots from beyond the arc. Dawkins is shooting 51.2 percent (22-of-43) from three-point range over his past seven games with multiple treys in all but one (BC) of those contests. Rasheed Sulaimon and Tyler Thornton are shooting a combined 57.4 percent (31-of-54) from three-point range since Duke began ACC play. Sulaimon boasts a .576 (19-of-33) clip, while Thornton owns a .571 (12-of-21) percentage. Dawkins and Rodney Hood are the top two three-point shooters in the ACC. Dawkins leads the league in three-point percentage, while Hood ranks second with a .468 (29-of-62) clip. Sulaimon has scored in double figures in seven of 11 ACC games and averages 11.0 points and 3.4 assists per game in conference play. Jabari Parker is attempting to become the first Duke freshman to lead the team in scoring and rebounding in the same season, currently averaging team highs of 19.2 points and 8.5 rebounds per game. Parker leads the ACC in rebounding, averaging 9.1 boards per game. In conference play, he averages ACC-high 3.9 offensive rebounds per game. Since beginning conference play, Duke is averaging 12.9 offensive rebounds per game to rank third in the ACC. Duke has pulled in double-digit offensive rebounds in eight straight games and is averaging 17.1 points on second-chance opportunities in ACC play.
This series is one of the oldest in college basketball today, and not only is it the biggest rivalry in NC but arguably one of the Top 5 college basketball rivalries in the nation. In football terms, think of Auburn-Alabama or Michigan-Ohio State.
This is the only ACC all-time series (dating back to 1920) where Duke does not lead, trailing 104-132. In the so-called ‘modern era’, Duke has the edge in Cameron at 41-35 while UNC leads 15-13 in games played at the Dean E. Smith Center. Duke is 39-37 under Head Coach Mike K. In terms of overall historical win streaks, Duke’s longest is eight (2/23/51-2/20/54) and UNC’s is 16 (2/23/21-2/11/28).
In terms of a few select statistical parameters during the season thus far, Duke leads in all but two categories, which gives the Blue Devils an edge head-to-head.
Four Factors to Winning
Duke and UNC are evenly matched when we look at the four factors. Duke has a significant edge in shooting (eFG%) at 55.9 vs. 48.7 and ball handling (TO%) at 14.2 vs. 17.5 while UNC has the edge in offensive rebounding (OR%) 38.4 vs. 34.1 and shooting free throws (FT Rate) at 48.0% vs. 45.2%.
This is as dangerous a UNC team as Duke has faced in a while. Winners of five straight, whatever troubles they experienced earlier in the year they have corrected and are playing their best basketball of the season. Of course, one of Duke’s biggest weaknesses is Carolinas strength (rebounding). UNC is a match-up nightmare for Duke, especially inside. They have a lot of beef; a lot of big, strong, physical players in the post that Duke has no answer for. We are not sure how Duke will contend with it but if the Blue Devils shoot poorly in this one, it could be problematic. In addition to Carolina being big, they are deep team; they play a lot of guys and Duke will have to be aware of them running fresh guys in and the fatigue level of Dukes bigger players like Jabari Parker and Amile Jefferson. Duke will have to rebound in this game; it has to be a focus and a priority for the Devils. Carolina is 9th in the nation in rebounding and they may not boast a double-digit rebounder, do not let that stat fool you; they have four players averaging over five RPG. Moreover, their point guard Marcus Paige is averaging 3.5 boards per game. Duke guards will need to box out well because offensive rebounding is definitely a statistic that should be in UNC’s favor. Limiting UNC to one shot per possession will be huge for Duke, while manufacturing offensive rebounding on the other end will be just as important.
Duke will have to do a much better job early of defending especially guard penetration to keep the few ‘bigs’ that they do have from being put in no-win situations at the rim and eventually foul trouble. In games like this Coach K usually keeps a short bench but that might play right into Carolina’s hands with the amount of fresh bodies they can throw at Jabari Parker. Secondary scoring is going to be very important. Quinn Cook, Rasheed Sulaimon, and Andre Dawkins will need to be engaged and have big nights for Duke. In addition, Rodney Hood will have to be aggressive and get to the rim. Duke should have the edge over UNC in terms of shooting from the outside but to fall in love with that is fool’s gold as UNC defends very well. Duke must take shots in rhythm and put pressure on the UNC defense with good, crisp passing, especially to post, then out to shooters.
This game is going to come down to how tough is this Duke team is. As tough as the Syracuse game was, there are factors in this game that lead us to believe that this may be an even tougher match-up. Duke will not face a more hostile crowd or hungrier team. While we think Duke can and will pull off this victory, it will not be by a large margin. Whichever team is able to not only get stops but hit big shots when game pressure is on. Both UNC and Duke have played in big games and both are playing their best basketball of the season, this game is shaping out to be another classic, records and rankings be damned.