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UNC at Duke: Game Preview

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The Tar Heels travel to Cameron Indoor Stadium to play spoiler on Grayson Allen’s Senior Night and complete the season sweep.

NCAA Basketball: Duke at North Carolina Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

UNC versus Duke; the best rivalry in college baske...er...modern athletics. The one game you don’t want to miss! Eight miles, two Hall of Fame Coaches, and...OK, I’m done...I won’t give you anymore of the ESPN-esque hype reel that shows the point differential and the head to head numbers skewed for just the last twelve-and-two-thirds games. You have probably seen and heard that a mere 1,500 times since the last game.

This year, though, the final duel between these two teams does have some added “stank” to it as the stakes are higher. Both teams are coming off of embarrassing last-second losses and are looking to recover before tournament play. Grayson Allen, a player who many love to hate, will be celebrating his Senior Night and the Tar Heels would like to spoil that. The winner gets the higher seed in the ACC Tournament and can possibly delay playing defensive stalwart Virginia until the championship round.

UNC and Duke 2017-2018: Team Stats

Team Stats

Team Nat'l Rank (ACC Rank) Record (Conf) PPG (Rk) ORtg (Rk) DPPG (Rk) DRtg (Rk) ORPG (Rk) TRPG (Rk) APG (Rk) TPG (Rk) TO Margin (Rk) ATO Ratio (Rk) RPI KenPom (AdjEFM) Sagarin (Rating)
Team Nat'l Rank (ACC Rank) Record (Conf) PPG (Rk) ORtg (Rk) DPPG (Rk) DRtg (Rk) ORPG (Rk) TRPG (Rk) APG (Rk) TPG (Rk) TO Margin (Rk) ATO Ratio (Rk) RPI KenPom (AdjEFM) Sagarin (Rating)
North Carolina 9 (4th) 22-8 (11-6) 83.6 (21) 115.7 (18) 74 (224) 102.4 (175) 13.97 (4) 42.7 (1) 18.2 (6) 12.2 (101) -0.5 (226) 1.49 (14) 6 8 (+23.82) 9 (90.03)
Duke 5 (2nd) 24-6 (12-5) 85.5 (6) 119.9 (4) 69.6 (107) 97.7 (57) 13.67 (8) 41.87 (2) 17.6 (11) 12.5 (120) -0.4 (218) 1.41 (19) 5 3 (+29.08) 2 (93.21)

Duke Blue Devils

Since losing to North Carolina in Chapel Hill on February 8th, Duke has compiled a 5-1 record with wins over Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, Clemson, Louisville, and Syracuse. Duke’s only loss during that span came at the hands of a buzzer-beater at Virginia Tech. Marvin Bagley, who missed the wins over Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, Clemson, and Louisville with a right knee sprain, was back in action for the win over Syracuse and loss to Virginia Tech. In his two games back, Bagley combined for 31 points and 14 rebounds.

Duke Individual Stats

Player MPG PPG RPG APG TPG FG% FT% 3P%
Player MPG PPG RPG APG TPG FG% FT% 3P%
Marvin Bagley III 33 20.7 11.1 1.6 2.3 0.603 0.627 0.354
Grayson Allen 34.7 15.5 3.4 4.5 2.2 0.426 0.863 0.366
Gary Trent Jr. 33.3 14.3 4.1 1.5 1.1 0.421 0.869 0.429
Wendell Carter Jr 27.6 14.3 9.5 2.1 2 0.576 0.725 0.486
Trevon Duval 29.4 10.5 2.2 5.3 2.6 0.43 0.6 0.274
Marques Bolden 13 4.1 3.6 0.7 0.6 0.6 0.571 0
Alex O'Connell 11.1 4 1.5 0.6 0.4 0.513 0.737 0.538
Javin DeLaurier 13.3 3.7 4.4 0.6 0.7 0.623 0.6 0.167
Jordan Tucker 7 3 0.5 0 1 0.5 0.5 0.5
Justin Robinson 5.1 1.4 0.5 0.1 0.3 0.438 0.5 0.4
Antonio Vrankovic 4.9 1.1 1.2 0.5 0.3 0.5 0.5 0
Jordan Goldwire 7 1 0.5 1 0.3 0.308 0.75 0.235
Jack White 6.3 0.9 1.7 0.2 0.3 0.381 1 0.167
Mike Buckmire 1.3 0.8 0.5 0.3 0 0.5 1 0

Stats via ESPN.

The 5-1 run, though, hasn’t been about the absence of Bagley in the first four games. Grayson Allen, without Bagley in the lineup, became a top-option once again. During the 4-0 run without Bagley, Allen scored 95 points. In the ten previous games, when Bagley was in the lineup, Allen managed just 98 points. In the two games since the return of the freshman, Allen was almost a non-factor against Syracuse as he only put up six points and six assists and missed all six of his three point attempts (Wait! Was that three sixes in sequence when talking about Duke? I think we all know what that means...), but came roaring back in the loss to Virginia Tech scoring 22 points, six rebounds, and three assists.

Gary Trent Jr., Wendell Carter, Jr., and Trevon Duval have also been play makers for the Blue Devils. All three are averaging over 10 points per game. Carter is second behind Bagley in rebounds with almost 10 per game. Duval, Duke’s assist leader, dishes out over five per game. Marques Bolden, Alex O’Connell, and James DeLaurier have all added depth, scoring, and rebounding to the Duke bench.

Since the loss to North Carolina, Coach K made a shift in defensive philosophy. Duke has played defense primarily in a 2-3 zone. This has caused problems for their opponents as the Blue Devils have held all six opponents under 70 points (with VT, Clemson, Louisville, and Syracuse being held to under 60). During that span, their average point differential was +14 points (If you remove the Virginia Tech one point loss, this average margin jumps to +17). If you take the six games before Duke switched to the zone and compare their opponent’s offensive numbers to the six games since they’ve made the switch, the numbers are telling:

Duke’s Six Opponents Pre-Zone: 41% FG, 31% 3PT, 10 TO, 13 OR (Duke - 25 DR)

Duke’s Six Opponents In-Zone: 37% FG, 26% 3PT, 13 TO, 9 OR (Duke - 26.5 DR)

Duke’s opponents have gotten worse in all facets of their offensive game. This zone seems to be working for the Blue Devils.


North Carolina Tar Heels

Since defeating Duke, North Carolina had an impressive run of four straight wins (three of those on the road) against North Carolina State, Notre Dame, Louisville, and Syracuse. Much like Duke, the Tar Heels were upset by Miami in their previous game by a half-court buzzer.

UNC Individual Stats

Player MPG PPG RPG APG TPG FG% FT% 3P%
Player MPG PPG RPG APG TPG FG% FT% 3P%
Joel Berry II 32.6 18.2 3.7 3.1 1.8 0.408 0.876 0.367
Luke Maye 32.6 17.9 10.2 2.4 1.8 0.515 0.625 0.462
Cameron Johnson 29.2 13.1 4.6 2.3 0.9 0.444 0.867 0.357
Kenny Williams 30.5 11.2 3.5 2.4 1.1 0.481 0.66 0.41
Theo Pinson 29 9.9 6 4.8 2.3 0.469 0.822 0.233
Sterling Manley 10.8 5.8 3.9 0.4 1 0.575 0.68 0
Garrison Brooks 15.1 4.4 3.6 0.5 1 0.561 0.524 0
Jalek Felton 9.7 2.9 0.9 1.6 1.1 0.387 0.667 0.314
Andrew Platek 8.1 2.2 1.1 0.6 0.3 0.5 0.75 0.391
Brandon Robinson 9.2 2 1.5 0.7 0.5 0.38 0.75 0.421
Brandon Huffman 4 1.9 1.7 0 0.4 0.531 0.563 0
Seventh Woods 8.1 1.3 0.8 1.2 0.7 0.318 0.75 0
Shea Rush 1.6 0.3 0.4 0.1 0.4 0.222 0 0.333
Walker Miller 1.6 0.3 0.4 0.2 0.1 0.333 1 0
Kane Ma 1.1 0.3 0.1 0 0 0.5 0 0
Aaron Rohlman 1.5 0.2 0.5 0.1 0.1 1 0 0

Stats via ESPN.

There’s one thing that’s obvious: Joel Berry II will never give up. He currently leads the team in scoring at 18.2 ppg while Luke Maye now sits in second at 17.9 ppg. Maye is still the dominant big man grabbing over 10 boards per game and yet still leads all three-point shooters with 46%.

Theo Pinson continues to provide a spark for the Tar Heels with 10 points, six rebounds, and five assists per game. He’s even found a little groove from the outside shooting a combined 5-8 from three point range. Cameron Johnson and Kenny Williams have also been scoring threats going for 13 ppg and 11 ppg, respectively. In the last meeting with Duke, Williams lit it up in the first half, hitting six threes and scoring a total of 20 points in about nine minutes. To be successful, North Carolina will need more than “First Half Kenny” this time around.

The enigma of this team (as it has been all year) is the performance of Sterling Manley and Garrison Brooks. Since logging 12 minutes in the previous meeting with Duke, Brooks has not seen more than nine minutes of game time, seeing as little as two minutes against Syracuse and averaging only six minutes per game over the last five. In the five previous games, Brooks was averaging just over 15 minutes per game. This sharp decline in playing time has obviously hurt his numbers, dropping from four points per game to just one. Manley’s numbers, however, have remained largely unchanged. In the last five games, he’s seen the floor an average of nine minutes and scored six points. In the five games before that, he averaged 8.8 minutes and four points. The Tar Heels will need a big performance from their big freshman as the Blue Devils will surely look to keep North Carolina from grabbing 20 offensive rebounds.

Seventh Woods finally made his return during the previous matchup against Duke, but hasn’t really returned to his old form. In 29 combined minutes over the last six games, Woods has only taken two shots, and missed both of them. He’s dished out four assists, but has also turned the ball over four times.


This game has the potential to be another barn-burner, nail-biter type of game. I’m a homer, and I believe that the senior leadership and drive of Berry and Pinson will, once again, outweigh the freakish athleticism of Bagley. The Tar Heels will be able to find the weaknesses in Duke’s new zone, while Duke lights it up from the outside.

UNC 87; Duke 83