North Carolina at Duke, 9:00 PM, ESPN(Dan Shulman, Jay Bilas, Dick Vitale)
UNC heads to Durham with a 12-game winning streak and looking for a sweep of Duke for the first time since the 2009 season. In the recent long winning streak, UNC has won ugly, won big, won dramatically and of course knocked off Duke. That latter point is something Roy Williams noted on Friday when he said they have confidence they can win against Duke because they have done it already.
This game is more or less going to come down to UNC's ability to defend. The Tar Heels have been very good on the defensive end all season. It was the defense in Chapel Hill that got the Tar Heels back in the game after falling behind by 11 points early in the second half. Duke shot 22% from three in Chapel Hill with Quinn Cook hitting some of those shots in probably his best game of the season. Both Rasheed Sulaimon and Andre Dawkins were non-factors in Chapel Hill and have been quiet in Duke's recent games. The danger for UNC, with Duke playing at home where the Blue Devils tend to shoot better, is Sulaimon and Dawkins finding their range to go along with the normal production from Rodney Hood and Jabari Parker. UNC's defense, especially on the perimeter, will be tested and chances are Duke will be ready for any zone defense looks UNC uses.
While UNC cannot allow Duke to play at their full offensive potential the Tar Heels must do everything they can to exploit susceptible Blue Devil defense. James Michael McAdoo has a clear advantage if Parker is guarding him and after several games of struggling to hit shots near the rim, a game from McAdoo similar to the ones he played in UNC's first 11 ACC games would be a huge lift. Marcus Paige is going to grab all sorts of attention from Duke's defense however that is nothing new. Paige has a reputation for stepping up in big games and this should be no different. The question for UNC offensively is always, "Who else?" Will it be J.P. Tokoto continuing his play of late? Leslie McDonald repeating his performance from the first game versus Duke? Kennedy Meeks? Brice Johnson? One theme in the 12-game win streak is UNC getting different players to step up at critical moments. If there was ever a time for everyone to play at a high level for the next month, now would be the time.
Roy Williams is 3-2 on Duke's Senior Night with wins in 2006, 2008 and 2012. Williams has often said he loves going to play on the road and "stealing people's cookies." There is also an element of UNC playing Duke even tougher in the second game than they did in the first one. All that being said, this feels like a game that Duke is simply going to win. There are no basketball reasons for that, it just seems like what will happen.
Duke 77 UNC 72