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Wrapping Up UNC-Duke and the Regular Season

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Mark Dolejs-USA TODAY Sports

You didn't dream it. UNC actually did finish a game out by showing some mettle late to get out of Durham with a four point win and the ACC Regular Season title. Here are a few more observations.

Oh hey Kennedy Meeks

Earlier in the week ESPN's Jay Williams went on air with a plea for Roy Williams to start Isaiah Hicks in place on Meeks. That line of though gave a very public microphone to what had mostly been fan grumblings about the lineup. Meeks took exception to it all and responded on Twitter. The question was whether Meeks' words would translate to improvement on the court as it did for Justin Jackson weeks earlier.

The answer was a resounding yes.  Not only did Meeks post a double-double with 12 points and 14 rebounds but was more effective than Isaiah Hicks. Meeks two early second half baskets came at a time when the Tar Heels were missing shots from all over the court. Hicks was saddled with foul trouble and issues holding onto the basketball in the paint. It was a largely forgettable night for a player who had been a key cog in so many UNC wins.

It also reinforced a couple of points about the Meeks/Hicks dynamic. One is Hicks' foul issues, especially in combination with Brice Johnson will continue to limit how much the duo can play together. Secondly, UNC needs both Hicks and Meeks to play well. Barring that the Tar Heels need at least of them to step up and provide support for Johnson. Meeks got it done versus Duke but in the postseason it could very well take them both.

Rebounds and defense

UNC grabbed 64 rebounds versus Duke. That number, in and of itself, is staggering given teams don't pull down boards at that rate in modern college basketball. According to the UNC record book, the rebounding effort versus Duke was the 12th best in UNC history. Of the other 11 only two occurred in the last 38 years. UNC had 72 rebounds versus Nicholls St. in 2011 and 68 versus VMI in 1966. The record was 78 against Furman in 1956. The 27 offensive rebounds was tied for sixth best in school history equaling the total from UNC's win over Rhode Island in the 2010 NIT Semifinals. The Tar Heels had a season best offensive rebounding rate of 56.2 and an defensive rebounding rate of 82.2, sixth best this season.

On the defensive end, UNC did give up 13 three pointers in 34 attempts(38.3%) but held Duke to 12-33 inside the arc(36.4%). UNC also kept the Blue Devils off the free throw line. Duke's free throw rate coming in was over 40% but against UNC on Saturday just 22.4%. Duke attempted just 15 free throws hitting nine of them. On the other end, the Tar Heels hit 20-23 giving UNC an 11 point edge at the line, a welcome reversal from recent games that saw Carolina on the wrong end of that equation. Duke's offensive efficiency was just 100.7 for the game and the Tar Heel effort was good enough to jump 13 spots in KenPom's defensive efficiency rankings.

Winning the regular season title

With the win over Duke, UNC claimed a seventh ACC Regular Season Championship under Roy Williams joining 2005, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011 and 2012 as the other teams to finish atop the league. Fourteen wins also tied UNC school record for ACC wins. It was UNC's 30th ACC Regular Season title in school history.

Because the ACC plays an unbalanced schedule and the regular season crown is not the official champion of the leage, finishing first is somewhat discounted in recent years. The scheduling aspect does make more difficult to parse since all records are not equal. UNC did in fact play a weaker schedule than other schools, especially since the Tar Heels got 0-18 Boston College and 5-13 NC State twice each. Still, UNC played its share of tough ACC opponents and often did it on the road with Miami and Duke the only ranked teams to come to Chapel Hill. UNC ended up facing three ranked ACC teams on the road plus trips to Notre Dame, Syracuse and Virginia Tech.

It also should be noted that UNC kept its nose clean with respect to the bottom part of the league. UNC's four losses all came against teams finishing in the top six by a total of 16 points. Three of those came on the road. While Virginia or Miami can argue they played a tougher slate, both of those teams lost at Virginia Tech where UNC managed a win. Miami also dropped one at NC State while the Cavaliers had losses to Georgia Tech and Florida State. While UNC may have had it easier, the tougher parts of the schedule for teams in 2nd and 3rd isn't what bit them it was the weaker portions.

For your entertainment, the locker room celebration following Saturday's win over Duke.