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Heel Tough Blog: Duke Preview

Updated: Feb 10, 2020


It's time for the greatest rivalry in not only college basketball, but in all of sports to renew itself as Duke visits the Smith Center tomorrow night. The last time we saw the Tar Heels we saw them go 11 minutes without making a field goal, in a eventual 65-59 road loss at Florida State. It was the second game back for freshman phenom Cole Anthony, which has resulted in 2 losses. After building momentum, and giving a sense of hope for a disappointing season has all been lost entering the first of two matchups with the Blue Devils. Brandon Robinson who sprained his ankle last Saturday in the home loss to Boston College, won't be available as he'll be out for roughly for 2-4 weeks.

Duke makes the 8 mile trip, with a 19-3 ( 9-2 ), coming off back to back gritty road wins as Coach K has his young team playing quality basketball. The Blue Devils lead the ACC in scoring, and are third nationally at over 82 points a game. With all the star power Duke possess, they put 4 players in double figures led by heralded freshman Vernon Carey Jr, who averages over 17 points a game. Not only is Carey effective, he's efficient as he converts on over 58% of his shots. In addition to his scoring prowess, Carey Jr leads the Blue Devils with 9 rebounds a game. With him, and other notable freshman Matthew Hunt, Duke has a toughness on the interior for the first time since Sheldon Williams over a decade ago. Outside of all the freshmen talent, the return of Tre Jones has been important. Last year Jones wasn't quite ready to lead his team, but after a full year of adjusting to college, he's turned into the player Coach K hoped he'd be during his recruitment. Duke will be seeking their first in Chapel Hill since 2015.

This season hasn't gone the way anyone expected it to, but a win over the arch rival would salvage a lost campaign. In years past Duke has had more talent on the court, but Carolina has always been more connected as a group. That type of chemistry hasn't been established with all the injuries, and as the teams' most talented player is better in isolation action. The team has their work cut out for them to get their 4th ACC win, but this rivalry isn't new to producing upsets. 3 keys to beating Duke:

1. Quality Offense: In Monday's loss at FSU, Garrison Brooks and Armando Bacot combined to shoot the basketball 10 times. That's unacceptable. Cole Anthony has to make it a point of emphasis to run the offense through the two bigs. If he goes 5-22, then the team has chance. Now the movement without the ball needs to pick back up, but guys aren't going to work for the ball, if they don't receive the rock. This is the rare year where the secondary offense isn't the strength of the offense, so they'll need to be crisp in their half-court sets.

2. Rebounding: Despite being among the nations best at rebounding the basketeball, Roy Williams noted as his press availability yesterday that the numbers look better than they actually are at rebounding. He's not lying. This was evident during the loss at Florida State, as they were outrebounded by the Seminoles. Carolina needs to rebound the basketball, to control the tempo that the game is played at. Most years Duke doesn't want to run with the Tar Heels, this year it appears that Carolina doesn't want to run with Duke. The best way to ensure that is to control the glass.

3. Turnovers: Duke averages almost 9 steals a game, as Tre Jones has become a lockdown defender. Carolina can't afford to turn the basketball over if they want a chance at pulling the upset. It hasn't been the turnovers that happen over the course of the game that have plagued the team, its been the one that aren't excusable that's been the most frustrating this season. Those kind of turnovers will absolutely them in this contest, so valuing the basketball is a absolute must. It would also help to force the Blue Devils into some untimely miscues, to turn the tide in this rivalry contest.

Series History: This is 100th year the two rivals from Tobacco Road will square off. Carolina leads the all-time series 139-112. Roy Williams is 16-20 against Duke since returning to Chapel Hill, having a even 8-8 record at home. 26 of the 36 contests have been decided by less than 10 points. The last time the two teams tangles in the Smith Center, Coby White shined in the second half, to power the Tar Heels to a regular season sweep of Duke, and a tie for the ACC regular season championship.


UNC - 98th overall. Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 104.9 ( 134th ) Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 97.1 ( 78th )

Duke - 2nd overall. Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 117.2 ( 4th ) Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 89.3 ( 9th )

TV Info: With College GameDay on campus, ESPN will carry the coverage of the game. There will not be any regional coverage for the game. Tip is scheduled for 6 pm.

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