UNC-Duke is Wednesday, here is what the THB staff thinks about round one.
The biggest match-up issue UNC has will be Brandon Ingram. Does UNC go small to keep him in check?
Chris: I think we’ll see it some, but at the same time, Ingram having to guard Johnson or Meeks in the post could be a huge advantage for UNC, especially if they can get him into found trouble. But in terms of actual match-ups, I do think UNC has a good answer in Justin Jackson. Jackson was awesome against Jamel Artis on Sunday, and I could see him doing an equally strong job against Ingram.
Doc: This is the old John Wooden/UCLA dilemma - do you do what you normally do and make the other team stop you, or do you adjust to the other team. I agree with Chris that UNC's big lineup causes issues if Ingram has to guard Johnson or Hicks. I think Plumlee will guard Meeks mostly. If Jackson can put up an effort like he did on Artis then UNC will be fine going small.Jackson has seemed to find his game on both ends of the floor, which is right on time for UNC.
Paul: Carolina will not go small. I think Coach Williams will start Johnson on Ingram and live with the consequences. Isaiah Hicks will also see Ingram for his minutes. I think that Williams does not want to play Pinson for extended minutes in this game--allowing Jackson to mark Ingram and Pinson to take Allen. Carolina might still stick Jackson on Ingram and hide Johnson somewhere else. The weirdest thing for Carolina to do would be to play a zone and dare someone other than Allen to hit a perimeter shot.
Brian: Williams would rather his team impose its will on the opponent than acquiesce with a lineup change. That means UNC will roll with the lineups of two bigs until it doesn't work. If there is foul trouble or too many defensive breakdowns, UNC will go small. That's the great thing about the group is there is versatility to counter an opponent. Ideally UNC wants to exploit the size advantage but if that doesn't work there are options.
Grayson Allen is another notable match-up given his ability to drive. Who is best suited to guard him?
Chris: Physically, Pinson, but I also think Paige is capable of doing a good job. He’ll give up size and be susceptible to being posted-up, but I also think he is well equipped to limit Allen’s driving ability.
Doc: Carolina's advantage here will be the ability to run fresh bodies at poor, undermanned Duke (/sarcasm). UNC's depth will allow any number of players to take a turn on Allen. Again Pinson will likely draw the assignment but Paige and even Jackson may take turns on him.
Paul: Justin Jackson or Paige should guard Allen, I think it's most important that whoever guards him is fresh. Allen should get looks from Pinson, Jackon and Paige. I think Carolina's best options are Jackson in the half court or having someone else hound him for all 94 feet. Another key is to have Berry or Paige drive on Allen early in the game and make him play defense.
Brian: However the first question gets answered dictates the second. If UNC can maintain a small lineup then it will be Jackson or Pinson on Allen with Paige taking his turn. If UNC goes small, then Jackson likely gets put on Ingram and Pinson or Paige draw Allen. The 1-3-1 might also make an appearance in spots just to be disruptive.
When Duke faced NCSU they opted for token pressure and a zone defense to counter the Wolfpack size and slow NCSU down should UNC expect the same?
Chris: Don’t know about the pressure, because UNC handles the ball too well and the last thing K wants is to speed the game up, but I think you can count on zone, especially if Plumlee picks up early fouls.
Doc: I agree. Duke can't pressure UNC consistently and doesn't want to get into a track meet. I also suspect we'll see plenty of zone from Duke if UNC goes big to try to neutralize the size disadvantage.
Paul: They should, but Carolina's bigs are much better than State's. I don't think Duke is good enough inside to counter Meeks, Hicks and Johnson in a zone that is not exceptionally conservative. This Carolina team can shoot and they're a terrible match-up for this Duke team. I think the Heels should take no jump shots for the first 5 minutes and just hit Duke in the post. If Ingram and Plumlee have foul issues, then Duke is in really big trouble. The Heels score at home, and I do not think that Duke will be able to do much to stop them.
Brian: One issue Duke has with the zone is they don't have the length and size even Syracuse has and UNC eviscerated the Orange in the second half. As Paul noted, UNC's bigs and general personnel are better than NCSU's aside from Cat Barber. Still, Duke will go to it because I am not sure there is much choice. Ingram can't guard Johnson in the post and foul trouble would be a huge issue. However, the nightmare scenario is a couple of Ingram flops saddling Johnson with two early fouls. At least in the zone, Duke can hope UNC's perimeter shooting woes reappear but don't think that will be the case.
Give me a prediction.
UNC 87 - Duke 73
UNC is a different team at home, Duke struggles to defend, particularly in the post, and UNC has quietly shot 44.2% (19-43) from three over the last three games. Taken as a whole, I expect UNC will control the game from the tip, and pull away late with their depth and ability to hit free-throws.
NC 78, Duke 74
Weird things happen when Carolina and Duke match up, especially in the first game. For whatever reason UNC under Roy has been awful in the first game. I expect Duke to shoot lights out because they always seem to, and the Tar Heels' recent rebounding struggles concern me. I imagine UNC will build a second-half lead and will have to survive a furious Blue Devil rally before gutting out a close win.
UNC 85 Duke 72
Duke encounters foul trouble, a significant issue when you have 6 players in a hostile road environment.
UNC 88 Duke 79
Duke's six man rotation runs out of steam after the ten minute mark in the second half as the Tar Heels drop the hammer to take control.