Duke (21-5, 10-3) – University of North Carolina (UNC) (18-7, 8-4) Preview
Randy Dunson & Brian Horace
February 20, 2014
Note: Much of this preview has not changed since its original issue with the exception of statistics and a few updated pointers, observations, etc.
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 7-5 away from Cameron Indoor Stadium this season, including 4-3 in true road games. Duke is 19-2 against unranked opponents this season with their only losses coming on the road against ACC foes Notre Dame (77-79) and Clemson (59-72). They are ranked No. 5 in the Associated Press Poll and No. 6 in the USA Today Coaches’ Poll. Duke has won four of its past five road games. The only loss during that stretch came at No. 2 Syracuse, 91-89, in overtime. Duke has played on the road in five of its past seven games. Duke is 3-1 this season when having one or fewer days between games. The Blue Devils are on hectic run of four games in eight days. The Blue Devils will play at North Carolina on Thursday before facing No. 1 Syracuse on Saturday. The North Carolina game was postponed on February 12 because of a winter storm (subject of another post). The stretch began with a win at Maryland on Saturday.
The UNC Tar Heels were picked to finish third in the ACC by the media. They are now living up to those expectations after a very slow and often chaotic start. They had 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 definitely playing some their best basketball at this point in the season, having won seven games in a row in ACC play (4 at home, 3 on the road). UNC is currently unranked, a position that is foreign to them particularly at this point. The Tar Heels are 4-2 against ranked opponents.
Sidebar: ESPN’s enhanced coverage of No. 5 Duke at North Carolina and undefeated No. 1 Syracuse at No. 5 Duke on Saturday, February 22, will include a live studio presence from the sites of both games. Coverage will begin from Chapel Hill on Thursday morning with Rece Davis, Jay Williams, and Seth Greenberg providing live reports and analysis through the day and halftime around the rescheduled Duke at North Carolina game (ESPN, 9 PM ET).
The crew of Chris Cotter, Jay Bilas and Greenberg will then move to Duke’s campus where they will appear across ESPN platforms from Friday morning through Saturday in anticipation of that day’s Syracuse-Duke rematch (ESPN, 7 PM). Saturday’s 6 PM College GameDay Covered by State Farm telecast will derive from inside Cameron Indoor Stadium, with the trio also handling halftime live from the court. The crew of Dan Shulman, Jay Bilas, and Dick Vitale, along with reporter Shannon Spake, will call the game.
Syracuse remained unbeaten and assumed the No. 1 spot in the national rankings following a 91-89 overtime win in the first meeting between the programs on February 1. The game averaged nearly 4.8 million viewers, making it the network’s third most-viewed regular-season men’s college basketball game on record.
Team Seasons Thus Far
UNC Tar Heels
In its last outing, Roy Williams earned his 300th win at North Carolina with an 81-75 win against Florida State as the Tar Heels rallied from a 15-point first-half deficit to record its seventh consecutive victory. The win was North Carolina’s biggest comeback of the year. Freshman forward Kennedy Meeks (16.3 PPG, 6.2 RPG) scored a career-high 23 points for North Carolina, while sophomore guard Marcus Paige (17.2 PPG, 4.6 APG, 3.4 RPG) chipped in 20. Junior forward James Michael McAdoo (14.7 PPG, 7.0 RPG), who had scored double figures in 17 consecutive games, fouled out without a point. North Carolina started just two for 13 from the field, but closed the first half with a 27-15 run with Meeks taking over inside. Florida State’s size, Okaro White, Michael Ojo, Boris Bojanovsky, played a combined 17 minutes in the first half because of foul trouble and Meeks stayed aggressive. Paige scored 16 of his 20 points in the second half as the Tar Heels continued to whittle down the lead. Freshman guard Nate Britt (5.1 PPG, 2.3 APG) hit a baseline jumper to give North Carolina its first lead of the game at 57-55 with 10:05 left to play. The Tar Heels led 70-69 when sophomore forward J.P. Tokoto (9.0 PPG, 5.6 RPG) came up with a loose ball and turned it into an easy two-hand dunk. Meeks then put in a layup off a Paige dribble-drive and dish to go up 74-69. Florida State never recovered.
In ACC games only this season, UNC leads the conference in three-point field goal percentage defense at .307 while Duke leads the league in three-point field goal accuracy at .420. The Tar Heels are 4-2 this year against teams ranked in the AP Top 25 (wins over [then ranked] No. 3 Louisville, No. 1 Michigan State, No. 11 Kentucky, and No. 25 Pitt; and losses at No. 2 Syracuse and [currently ranked] No. 14 Virginia. UNC’s next three games are against the three ACC schools located in North Carolina (Duke, Wake Forest and NC State). Senior guard Leslie McDonald (10.2 PPG, 1.5 APG, 2.2 RPG) shot one for eight in each of his last two games and is eight for 31 from the field in the last four contests. McAdoo scored in double figures in 17 consecutive games and 20 contests overall this season prior to going scoreless at Florida State. The last time he didn’t score a point was at NC State in February of his freshman year. Carolina is averaging 78.2 points per game in its eight ACC wins and 57.5 PPG in its four ACC losses. The Tar Heels are above .500 in the ACC after starting 0-3 and 1-4 in the conference. Paige is shooting an ACC-best 89.4 percent from the free throw line this year, ranking seventh in the nation. The Tar Heels lead all teams in ACC games only in rebounds per game, rebounding margin, offensive rebounding, defensive rebounding, assists, steals, and three-point field goal defense. Carolina ranks 25th in the nation in assists per game, 25th in field goal percentage defense, and fifth in offensive rebounding. In 12 ACC games, UNC is shooting .440 as a team, including .298 from three-point range. Marcus Paige is averaging 35.8 minutes per game this season, more than any player in the Roy Williams era at UNC. 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).
Duke Blue Devils
Before a crowd of 8,600, which was Georgia Tech’s first sellout of the season, Jabari Parker led the way with 16 points and 14 rebounds as No. 5 Duke rolled past the Yellow Jackets 68-51 on Tuesday night.
Rodney Hood sank four 3-pointers and scored 14 points for Duke, which never trailed and led by double figures for the final 28 minutes. Rasheed Sulaimon had 11 points for Duke. The Blue Devils have won four straight and nine of 10. After making only five of 24 3-pointers in Saturday’s 69-67 home win over Maryland, Duke made 10 of 18 treys against the Yellow Jackets. The Blue Devils, who lead the ACC in 3-point shooting, made six of their first eight 3’s, including three by Hood, and pulled ahead 34-16. Parker, who recorded the ninth double-double of his rookie season, and Hood helped make sure the Blue Devils were sharp from the opening minutes. Hood had three of his four 3-pointers in the first six minutes, and the Blue Devils led 38-19. Georgia Tech trailed 43-27 at the break of the rematch and cut the deficit to 52-40 early in the second half, but could not muster another comeback attempt. Robert Carter Jr. led Georgia Tech (13-13, 4-9 ACC) with 13 points. Kammeon Holsey had 12, and Chris Bolden added 10.
Duke has won nine of its past 10 games with the lone loss during that stretch coming at the hands of now-No. 1 Syracuse, 91-89, in overtime. Duke has beaten seven of those 10 opponents by 15 points or more. Over its past 10 games, Duke is shooting .427 (103-of-241) from three-point range while averaging 10.3 made three-pointers per game. Senior guard Tyler Thornton, who has moved into the starting point guard position (.522, 12-of-33; 3.3 PPG, 2.3 APG), sophomore guard Rasheed Sulaimon (.514, 18-of-35; 9.3 PPG, 2.4 APG, 2.2 RPG) and 5th year senior guard Andre Dawkins (.510, 26-of-51; 9.2 PPG, 0.5 APG) are all shooting better than 50.0 percent from three-point range during that span. Duke ranks fifth in the nation and leads the ACC with a 1.61:1 assist-to-turnover ratio. The Blue Devils have amassed 244 assists to just 79 turnovers and have committed less than 10 turnovers 14 times this season. Thornton leads Duke with a 4.00:1 assist-to-turnover ratio and owns a 21:1 mark over his past five games. Sulaimon has scored in double figures in nine of 13 ACC games and averages 11.1 points and 3.3 assists per game in conference play. He leads Duke with 29 assists over his past seven games and owns a 2.63:1 assist-to-turnover ratio during that span. Freshman forward Jabari Parker is currently averaging team highs of 19.2 points and 8.7 rebounds per game. He is attempting to become the first Duke freshman to lead the team in both scoring and rebounding. Only two freshmen have led Duke in scoring, and only six have led the team in rebounding. Parker leads the ACC in rebounding and ranks second in scoring. Parker was named ACC Rookie of the Week for the league-leading eighth time Monday. He is just two ACC Freshman of the Week awards shy of tying the league record of 10, held by Georgia Tech’s Kenny Anderson (1989-90) and North Carolina’s Tyler Hansbrough (2005-06). Sophomore forward Rodney Hood (16.2 PPG, 4.2 RPG) is the only player in the ACC to rank among the league’s top 10 in scoring (8th, 16.2 PPG), field goal percentage (5th, .478 – 140-of-293), free throw percentage (5th, .837 – 87-of-104), three-point percentage (2nd, .455 – 55-of-121) and made three-pointers per game (6th, 2.1 3PG). Dawkins is 18 points shy of becoming the 63rd Duke player to reach 1,000 points in a career. Dawkins has 982 points in his career and averages a career-high 9.2 per game this season.
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.
Game Keys/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 55.2 vs. 49.0 and ball handling (TO%) at 14.1 vs. 17.4 while UNC has the edge in offensive rebounding (OR%) 38.5 vs. 33.7 and shooting free throws (FT Rate) at 44.4% vs. 41.4%.
Key Points to Keep in Mind
This is as dangerous a UNC team as Duke has faced in a while. Winners of seven straight games, 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 Carolina’s 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 Parker and Jefferson. Duke will have to rebound in this game; it has to be a focus and a priority for the Devils. Carolina is 8th 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. However, in the Georgia Tech game he went back to a 5-man rotation again…we will just have to wait and see. Secondary scoring is going to be very important. Cook, Sulaimon, and Dawkins will need to be engaged and have big nights for Duke. In addition, 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.
We would be surprised if UNC didn’t pound the ball into the interior with how Kennedy Meeks has been playing, not just on the strength of his last outing but those of us who have seen him play before UNC know that he is a very skilled ‘big’. He has shown it in spurts and he could very well give Duke problems inside. Duke will hopefully make the big man work hard on defense to perhaps zap some of this steam on the offensive end.
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. Duke will need to keep Parker and Jefferson out of foul trouble against the UNC ‘bigs’ and driving guards; could we see zone? We would not be surprised in some instances and stretches.
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.