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How Can UNC Knock Off Duke?

Let's face it, it hasn't been rocket science to beat Carolina this season. You just encourage their fast tempo, capitalize on the inevitable turnovers, shoot well and pack the lane of defense to keep the Heels' big men from having big games.  And we can expect Duke to do some of that at least. The turnovers and shooting are always the Blue Devils' bread and butter, and between Singler, Zoubek, two Plumlees and Kelly they have enough big men to rotate in against UNC. (Although that's not necessarily the way Krzyzewski's going to go. Zoubek has notoriously gotten less minutes in games against the Heels than he has in other games around that time, despite the fact that facing Hansbrough and Thompson underneath, I'd have wanted more big men.)

But how do you beat Duke? The four teams that have done it didn't really have much in common. Georgetown and N.C. State shot the lights out of the building, but that's not something Carolina's been able to do much. Wisconsin had a ridiculously low turnover margin and slowed the pace down to a crawl – Boston College tried something similar and came within three of winning – but UNC is as likely to do that as Dick Vitale is to bring a thought-provoking, low key commenting style to the broadcast booth. Tech for the most part kept Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith frustrated and shooting poorly, and also benefited from a style of play that kept Duke in foul trouble, especially down low. (You may remember, the Yellow Jackets were the same team that Thompson and Davis on the bench for quite some time in foul trouble.) This is probably the way forward for the Heels.

Pushing the tempo will have some effect, provided it doesn't lead to large turnovers from the Heels; Duke has been trending towards slower and slower games as the season wears on, and both Georgetown and State pushed them out of their comfort zone. Of course, their fastest game of the conference season was a twenty point blowout of Wake, who couldn't stop coughing the ball up, so this could go badly for Carolina quickly. 

Beyond that, disrupting either Smith or Singler is key, and here's where things get interesting. Singler has almost always had good games against Carolina, but might see a lot of John Henson tonight, whose long arms may give him fits. Or his freshman attention span could see a lot of easy buckets for the Blue Devils. Smith has never had a good game against the Heels, but this year's model has been particularly susceptible to the slash and penetrating style guards of which Smith is numbered among. 

And finally, there's rebounds. UNC's going to be playing a lot of half-court offense, as Duke both shoots well and doesn't turn the ball over much. The Heels are going to need every second chance they can get on the offensive end, which is doable, as the Duke big men are generally more focused on defending the shot than getting the board. They're also going to have to severely curtail the Blue Devils' offensive rebounds, which is more difficult. After all, why are Zoubek and the Plumlees even on the offensive side of the court if not to pull in rebounds. They're not the second, third or sixth look on offense; their job is to spread the court and get the ball back if a shot goes bad. Second half rebounding absolutely killed the Heels against Maryland, and if they allow the same to happen against Duke, it's going to be another blowout loss. And there's only so many more of those I can bear to watch this season.