What: College Basketball Armageddon 2009, Part I
Where: Cameron Indoor Stadium, Durham, NC
When: Wednesday, February 11th, 9:00 PM
TV: ESPN or Raycom Regional
Records: UNC 21-2, 7-2 ACC; Duke 20-3, 7-2 ACC
Time to make a statement.
This game is what it is. The records do not matter nor does the fact that the winner assumes 1st place all by themselves. All these things do is raise the ante. Even without those stakes this game would be a war. UNC walks into Cameron with a whole team of players who have never lost at Duke. Tyler Hansbrough and Danny Green will be seeking the rare four year sweep of Duke in a building that is oft proclaimed as the greatest college basketball crowd in the nation. It has been my sense that the reason UNC has managed three straight wins at Duke is this group does not seem rattled on the road. The Heels have only lost twice away from Chapel Hill since the beginning of last season. For all the hype concerning the Cameron Crazies it is pretty clear this UNC team is unfazed by the environment. Heck they may even feed off it or at the very least feed off serving them a play full of shut the heck up.
Concerning the basketball I think this is one of those strength on strength matchups. UNC top ranked offense versus Duke highly rated defense. While the Heels' defense gets called into question quite a bit and a hot shooting night from three for Duke would position them to win given the issues Duke has a point plus the lack of any serious interior threat means the Heels can probably find a way to defend. That means the game hinges on whether the Heels can get the kind of offensive production they are capable of getting. In the two losses UNC shot poorly keyed mainly by the struggles of Ty Lawson. In this game Lawson should be able establish his game which leads to a good flow for the Tar Heel offense. Duke does not have the horses on the interior to handle Hansbrough and even when they did have the horses they could not handle Hansbrough. Assuming the Heels can get the ball inside it should help to open up the outside.
Wayne Ellington has been locked in of late and Danny Green has a big game mentality. Last season those two were specifically noted as being the players that did not shoot well then the Heels lost to Duke in Chapel Hill. There is an opportunity for redemption from those two as well as Lawson wanting to make a huge impact after missing the first one and being hobbled in the 2nd last season. Deon Thompson and Ed Davis will be extremely important in controlling the boards as well as playing defense on Kyle Singler.
This game always has an "anything could happen" feel to it. On paper the Heels dominance inside and at PG should be enough to see UNC to the win. However I know better than to believe this game will come close to unfolding that way. The possibility of a Duke offensive explosion is very real given the porous nature of the Heels' perimeter defense. Still, if UNC brings their A game they should win, maybe even handily.
UNC 85 Duke 77