Duke vs. UNC Preview & Predictions - Round Two

And so the day has finally come.

The day Duke fans have been waiting for so they can get revenge on a fluke game.

The day UNC fans have been waiting for so they can prove (AGAIN) that they're the better team.

This is just how things are in the greatest rivalry in college sports.

The first matchup was a tale of two halves - Duke owning the first, UNC the decisive second.

Duke is floundering a bit, coming off a disappointing loss to Wake Forest, while Carolina has won 12 games in a row.

But, as is tradition, none of that matters now. It's all about what happens during those two hours tonight at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

Projected Starting lineups

#4 Duke (23-7, 12-5 ACC)

G Tyler Thornton, Sr., 3.2 ppg, 2.4 apg

G Rasheed Sulaimon, So., 9.5 ppg, 2.7 apg

F Rodney Hood, R-So., 16.3 ppg, 4.1 rpg

F Jabari Parker, Fr., 18.8 ppg, 9.0 rpg

C Amile Jefferson, So., 6.5 ppg, 6.6 rpg

#14 North Carolina (23-7, 13-4)

G Marcus Paige, So., 16.9 ppg, 4.5 apg

G Leslie McDonald, R-Sr., 10.7 ppg, 2.0 rpg

F J.P. Tokoto, So., 9.4 ppg, 5.8 rpg

F James Michael McAdoo, Jr., 14.2 ppg, 6.9 rpg

F Kennedy Meeks, Fr., 7.6 ppg, 6.2 rpg

What to watch for:

UNC's Zone

After getting beat on the defensive end for most of the first half, UNC head coach Roy Williams switched to a 1-3-1 zone against the Blue Devils in the second half.

The result?

Duke's offense got stagnant (not making a shot over a nine-minute stretch at one point), which allowed for the Tar Heels to come back and win the game.

Since then, teams have played Duke almost exclusively zone, and the Devils have struggled. They've settled for a lot of lower percentage shots from long range, shooting 103 of them over their past four games starting with that first Carolina game, which is 43.6% of the total shots they've taken. And Duke's only hit 28 of those shots over that time frame, which means they've been shooting 27.1% from long range over the course of those games.

Not only are they taking shots they aren't making, they're not penetrating the zone but have been content to pass the ball around the perimeter until the shot clock runs down and someone is forced to shoot.

In short, zones have been stagnating Duke's offense and have allowed the opposition to get control of the game.

It all started against UNC, and that zone gave Coach K's squad the most problems.

If they can't figure it out or turn things around, the Heels will win this one easily.


We talk about this a lot with Duke - they're a perimeter-oriented team without a real post threat. Marshall Plumlee has come on late and helped in that area, but Amile Jefferson isn't playing at the level he was a few weeks ago, and that's the extent of Duke's big man rotation.

Meanwhile, the Tar Heels are one of the biggest teams in the conference and have legitimate size at every position on the floor at all times. They're ranked eighth in the country in total rebounding, averaging over 40 a game.

Most of those come on the offensive end, where Carolina gets a ton of second chance points.

In the first matchup, the Heels won the rebounding battle 43-30 and won the game as a result.

Duke needs to keep things closer on the boards to negate that big advantage for UNC to have a shot a winning this game.

Prediction: Duke 77-72. I want to stress this - the ONLY reason I am picking Duke to win this game is because it's in Cameron, and they always somehow find a way to win there. The Devils shoot better, play better defense, are more aggressive, and are just a better basketball team. I'm also betting on the fact that Coach K has addressed his squad's lack of aggressiveness against zone defenses and that we'll see a lot of drives and shots in the paint from the Devils, especially early. I am not confident in this pick, but I just think this Duke team will play extra motivated at home tonight to not get swept by UNC.

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