There is not much time to sit around and anguish over the frustrating loss to Pitt. For the North Carolina Tar Heels, that is a good thing.
But the game after this disheartening loss is unlike any other. In the 259th meeting of Carolina and Duke on Saturday, each team is middling at 7-4 in the ACC.
The Heels were outworked and outcoached in the last game to end their four-game winning streak, while the Devils have not seen that long of a winning streak since early December in a win over Maryland-Eastern Shore.
But as everyone knows, you can throw the record books out the window in this matchup.
It is truly a new era in the Carolina-Duke rivalry. Here are a few things to watch tomorrow night in Durham.
Half Court Offense
In the second half against Pitt, the view from the Smith Center seats or the couch at home was a head-scratcher.
There seemed to be just two set offensive plays that were run. Carolina was an absolutely abysmal one of 14 from three. And the automatic double-teams on Armando Bacot stifled the inside-out game.
It was apparent there were lingering issues with R.J. Davis. He was the engine of this Carolina team during a 6-1 run in January.
If the NBA-style offense is not working in a game, when is the time for head coach Hubert Davis must change the plan?
UNC had more rebounds against Pitt. That makes sense when you shoot 35 percent from the floor. But at least the ability to rebound is still there.
You cannot will a three-pointer into the basket. It is that simple.
Despite Bacot’s struggles on the block with the double teams, this team is much better when it goes inside-out and drives to the basket.
Let’s see if these adjustments happen, or if the team just continues to shoot until something falls.
What Happened to the Bench?
On Wednesday night, five players appeared off the bench and combined for 24 minutes.
There was not a single reserve that appeared for more than nine minutes on the floor. This was the first time all season that someone from the bench did not tally double-digit minutes.
So, in a game where Davis is still dealing with a hand injury, the primary inside presence is battling constant double teams, and Leaky Black is struggling in the best area of his game, there are no substitutions except for foul trouble and catching a breath.
The five players that did have limited minutes off the bench, Jalen Washington, Tyler Nickel, Seth Trimbel, D’Marco Dunn, and Dontrez Styles, have provided key contributions this season. At the very least, they are net positives in some aspect on the floor.
Beating a square peg into a round hole will not earn wins in February. Why Hubert Davis chose this game, a home game against the team directly above UNC in the standings, to not adjust personnel based on the results on the floor is mystifying.
Let’s hope it does not happen again.
Kyle Filipowski or the Field?
Kyle Filipowski, the freshman seven-footer for Duke, is a matchup nightmare for any team.
Duke’s leading scorer has double-digit points in all but two games this season. Since the beginning of January, Filipowski has been averaging over 19 points per game, including games of 28 and 29 points.
But the Blue Devils are 5-3 during that stretch. In fact, his career high of 29 points came in a loss at Virginia Tech.
You may be able to attribute some of that to Duke’s record at home versus on the road.
However, it is not as simple to say that “as Filipowski goes, so goes the Blue Devils.”
This Duke team’s strength is their defense and their likely focus tomorrow night will be replicating the Carolina offensive output from beyond the arc. The Blue Devils lead the ACC in three-point field goal percentage defense.
If you are the Tar Heels, do you hone in on Filipowski or limit Jeremy Roach and the committee of Blue Devils averaging eight points or less a game?