Chapel Hill, N.C. — College basketball's best rivalry will be renewed Thursday night in Chapel Hill and fans of both teams are more than ready to see who will be taking home bragging rights in 2018.
Ninth-ranked Duke (19-4, 7-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) is coming off a loss to a St. John's team that started 0-11 in the Big East. As for the No. 21 Tar Heels (17-7, 6-5), they snapped their first three-game losing streak since 2014 by beating up on a Pittsburgh team that now sits at 0-11 in the ACC.
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Duke has won eight of the last 11 meetings, including taking two of three from UNC last season. Two of North Carolina's three wins in the series since 2013 have come at the Dean Some.
The WRAL sports staff weighs in on Thursday's rivalry game offering their keys to the game and tell you who they think will win:
Duke has lost two of its last three games. North Carolina has dropped three of its last four. Not exactly lights out streaks heading into the first edition of the Battle of the Blues. But if there is ever a way to snap back into attention, it’s when these two rivals are on the same court. Marvin Bagley and Wendell Carter could give Carolina fits in the post against the Heels' smaller lineup. I’ve noticed the last three games that Roy Williams has tried to get Garrison Brooks and Sterling Manley a few more minutes. He’s even played them together at times. Before the Tar Heels played Pittsburgh, Theo Pinson told the story Williams asking Brooks and Manley in practice.
“Do I have you in during important times of the game? They both said yes,” Pinson explained. “You have to show me now that you can play in these type of games. You have to step up for us and make those plays.”
That would point to Williams trying to prepare the two freshmen for the battle against Duke. They have to provide something.
Have some of the Duke players checked out early? Are they looking more at their NBA futures rather than the current challenges? It appeared that way in the St. John’s loss but that won’t happen in their first chance to play North Carolina. It’s the last time Grayson Allen will get to hear the serenade from Tar Heel fans in Chapel Hill. He’s done quite well against the Heels the last two years, averaging 21.8 points in the five games. Duke needs Allen to be that guy, not the one who has failed to score in double figures in five of the last nine games. Carolina’s 3-point defense is second worst in the ACC with teams connecting on 38 percent from three. In the past they could take more chances guarding the perimeter, aggressively challenging at the shooter. If the offensive player decides to drive, they had to deal with shot blockers. Carolina doesn’t have the rim protectors that they are used to and the perimeter defenders know that.
Neither Duke nor Carolina is known for their defensive prowess this season. In fact, they can stink it up trying to guard and defend. I almost picked a game in the 100s, but the last time one team hit a hundred was 2009. The last time both reached the century mark was the famous game in 1995 that went to double overtime. I think we’ll see a game in the 80s and I’ll take Duke over North Carolina, 84-81.
I’m going to have to go with Duke in this one. I haven’t seen enough consistency from UNC so far this season. I also think Coach Krzyzewski tore into the Blue Devils after falling to St. John’s – the worst team in the Big East – Saturday. They’ve had a few days to soul search and refocus on their rival. Some of the biggest wins come after hard losses.
While I sense a much more confident UNC team, I’m gonna say Duke takes this game at the Dean Dome.
Score: Duke 80, UNC 74. Sorry, can't write more. Still in mourning following Super Bowl Sunday.
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If you know which version of these teams are going to show up, let me know. The last time out, Duke snoozed through most of the game in a loss to a St John’s team that has still not won a Big East Conference game this year, prompting head coach Mike Krzyzewski to call the performance “disgusting” and “not worthy” of the Duke program. Meanwhile, North Carolina snapped a three-game slide with a win over Pittsburgh, but beating the Panthers hardly qualifies as something to write home about, so…let’s just assume that both teams play what we’d consider their A-Game.
I’m not sure how North Carolina will deal with the inside tandem of Marvin Bagley III and Wendell Carter, Jr. Those are two absolute mismatches on the defensive end for UNC based on the lineup Roy Williams would prefer to have on the court. But that should have been the case at St. John’s, and at Boston College, and at NC State. It’s been a while since Joel Berry II, Kenny Williams, Cameron Johnson AND Luke Maye all played well at the same time. That time is Thursday. The veteran Heels handle the moment better than the young Devils. Score: UNC 78-74.
'Ol Roy (pickin' kitten) comes out of retirement to pick the game for Ovies.
Duke’s strengths are UNC’s weaknesses: A strong inside game and efficient three-point shooting (despite not taking as many or being as reliant on the three as the Blue Devils have been with consistency in the past, when they take ‘em, they tend to make ‘em .. 38.9 percent from long range). UNC’s strengths are… different depending on the day, so there isn’t something here that convinces me the Tar Heels will win. Duke beats UNC.
It'll be close, as it has been lately, but Duke is going to have a little too much on offense for the Tar Heels – even if they do have their typical maddening, head-scratching stretch or two. Duke 83, UNC 77.
I definitely see a full tilt up tempo game. Slight edge goes to Duke, because of 3’s, transition, and transition 3’s. Those are all Duke strengths and areas where Carolina is weak defensively. I also believe the Duke double punch of Bagley and Carter inside will be an advantage for the Blue Devils.
I expect the Tar Heels to play Brooks and Manley more Thursday night – maybe together as we saw against Pitt. The huge home crowd will help UNC, but the Tar Heels will need a great shooting game to take full advantage – unless they can force 18 turnovers like St. John’s did. This time I think Duke will take care of the basketball and UNC will need a great night in half court offense to win. Could happen but statistically the edge goes to Duke. Score: Duke 89, UNC 84.
A week ago, it would have been a no-brainer to pick Duke. Even in a loss against Virginia, Duke’s offense looked like it figured things out in the second half when it put together one of their most efficient halves of the season against Tony Bennett’s defense.
And let’s be honest, there aren’t any similarities between Virginia’s defense and whatever UNC’s been doing in conference play. But then St. John’s happened. Duke looked so disinterested in playing defense that Krzyzewski called the performance “not fitting of our program,” and if there’s one team this year who you don’t want to let get hot from three-point range, it’s the team that features Joel Berry, Kenny Williams, Cam Johnson and Luke Maye.
Still, this game is Duke’s choice to win or lose. Even with the difficulty that Duke will face in defending four shooters, if the Blue Devils value the basketball on offense and stay remotely disciplined on defense, they’ll win the game. The problem for Duke … that’s a big “if” after Saturday’s performance in New York. Score: Duke 79, UNC 70.
I know it’s my heart talking and not my head, but I’m taking the Tar Heels. Why? Because after losing three straight, the Heels got back on track with a dominant win in a game they should have won in dominant fashion.
Sometimes that’s all it takes for a team to regain momentum. And Theo Pinson, Joel Berry and Luke Maye have played in more big games than the Duke young guns. In Cameron, it will probably be a different story. But in Chapel Hill, I’ve got to have faith that the Tar Heels will step up and pull out a win. Score: Carolina 83, Duke 77.
This will be a high-scoring game with Duke pulling out the victory. The two teams are built differently, and ultimately Duke's ability to score inside and control the boards will prove to be the difference.
UNC could potentially pull off the upset by winning the three-point battle, but the Tar Heels might struggle consistently getting off those attempts against Duke's length, and they lack the playmakers off the dribble to exploit Duke's weakness defending the pick-and-roll.
Marvin Bagley and Wendell Carter will be too much for the Heels. Duke, 85, UNC 78
Source : http://www.wralsportsfan.com/rivalry-picks-duke-over-unc-the-choice-for-bulk-of-wral-sports-staff/17320075/