North Carolina at Duke
Where: Cameron Indoor Stadium, Durham, NC
When: February 7th, 9:00 PM
Records: UNC 20-3, 6-2 ACC; Duke 18-5, 5-4 ACC
It is the best rivalry in college sports. The disdain Tar Heel fans feel for Duke cannot be quantified with any measure known to man nor is there a definitive starting point to that hatred. There is no causation for it, it just is.
Tonight the two teams renew hostilities for a second straight game at Cameron. And if the drama of the rivalry itself was not enough of a storyline there are added pressures. Both teams come in with losses, UNC trying to recover from the debacle in Raleigh and Duke dropping two straight close games, the last one at home. The idea that Duke could lose consecutive games at home and falling to 5-5 in the ACC is plenty of incentive for Duke to play well and win. The Heels need to stay close to the top of the ACC with the improved play of Virginia and the conistency of Boston College creating a crowded top. UNC also would like to wipe clean the bad taste of Saturday and prove that they have what it takes to go on the road and win in a high pressure game(because at this point the Clemson game does not really count)
In terms of the matchup on the court UNC has the speed, depth and sheer offensive firepower to bury Duke except Duke has one of the best defenses in the country. The same cannot be said of the Duke offense which will have plenty of problems generating points against a UNC team which boast nearly as good a defense as Duke. If one lesson was learned Saturday it is that UNC really should think about applying full blown pressure more often. With Duke's turnover issues, UNC could capitalize in a huge way. On the other side of that particular coin UNC needs to take care of the ball in an effort to avoid giving Duke any easy opportunities.
Of course I think this game could rise and fall on the play of Reyshawn Terry and Wayne Ellington. Tyler Hansbrough and Brandan Wright will get their points and Ty Lawson should be able to bring production from the point position. However if Ellington is cold and plays poor defense. And if Terry does not have his head in the game then UNC is in for a long night. On one hand UNC does not needs it's offense dominated by perimeter scoring but perimeter scoring has a way of really opening up the offense. Ellington's defense is almost more important as his offense since his failure to defend ends up putting him on the bench. Terry though is the real X factor. Basically Duke does not have a player that can effectively guard him if he is playing well offensively. Terry can shoot threes but is also an exceptional athlete making him a threat from a variety of positions on the court. If his game is on it more or less creates chaos for the opposing defense which opens up the interior game. Another unknown factor is the play off the bench. Danny Green and Deon Thompson are capable of hitting big shots. Marcus Ginyard could be called on to clamp down on a hot Blue Devil and it will be imperative that Alex Stepheson and Quentin Thomas contribute minutes without miscues. And let is be said that I would not be surprised to see Bobby Frasor play a key role at some point in this game. Call it a gut feeling on my part, but a big shot or two at a key moment could be a difference maker.
By and large this could be one of the more interesting renewals of the series. A young Duke team which does not meet the standard held high for the past 10 years versus a young and awfully talented UNC team. A win here for UNC buries what happened Saturday whereas a loss for Duke could put them in a serious slide.
And it cannot get here soon enough.
UNC 86 Duke 76