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Heel Tough Blog: Duke Preview

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The final weekend of the regular season is here, which means it’s time for the greatest rivalry in sports to renew itself, as Carolina makes the trip to Durham to take on the Blue Devils. For the first time in 12 years, the finale against Duke has ACC implications for both teams, as Carolina is seeking to win the ACC outright, while Duke is looking to earn at least a share of the regular season title. The two rivals haven’t shared the ACC regular season title since the 2000-01 season, in large part because in the last 20 years, Carolina is 8-0 against Duke when there are ACC implications on the line. 

The Blue Devils have won 8 of 9 since they lost in Chapel Hill a little over a month ago. While Kyle Filipowski and Jeremy Roach have been the constants for Jon Scheyer, the emergence of Jared McCain and Sean Stewart have made this a different Duke team, than the team Carolina saw back in February. McCain had a double-double in Chapel Hill, but his performance was overshadowed in the defeat. Tonight is Senior Night for Duke, which means they’ll be saying goodbye to Jeremy Roach, a guy who has continued to stay in college to achieve the type of things that Carolina did in 2021-22 when they beat Coach K in his final home game and sent him home in the Final Four. Luckily for Carolina, they have plenty of experience spoiling important Senior Nights at Cameron Indoor Stadium. 

When Carolina beat Duke back in February, they were coming off a loss at Georgia Tech, which had ended their 10-game losing streak. Carolina was brilliant that night, scoring 93 points, and shooting over 50% from the field, as Armando Bacot put together a legendary performance, scoring 25 points, grabbing 10 rebounds, and handing out 5 assists. Harrison Ingram had his best offensive game to that point, scoring over 20 points, and making several three-point shots. The big thing that Duke was able to do was limit the impact of R.J. Davis, who scored 17 points, but the majority came from the foul line. Duke opted to faceguard the ACC Player of the Year that night, and that will be their gameplan once again tonight, which Carolina has been preparing for since thrashing Notre Dame on Tuesday night. 

The Tar Heels may have already clinched a share of the ACC regular season title, but that doesn’t mean they are satisfied, because the last thing they want to do is share it with their arch-rivals. What has flown under the radar entering tonight’s game is that Armando Bacot and R.J. Davis have won in Cameron twice. A third win in Durham, would further their legacies at UNC, earn Carolina the outright ACC title, and the #1 seed in next week’s ACC tournament. Here’s how Carolina can earn a regular-season sweep of Duke: 

  1. Defend 3 Point Line: As you can imagine, Duke is among the better perimeter shooting teams in all of college basketball, as they shoot 38% from behind the arc, which is tops in the ACC. In the first matchup, Duke shot just 26% from behind the arc, a big reason why Carolina was able to win the game. Duke has four players in their rotation that shoot 35% or better from deep and will feature lineups where all 5 players can step out, and shoot it from the outside. Carolina’s perimeter defense is still among the best in the ACC, but they’ve struggled in the second half of the season, getting torched by Miami a little over a week ago, and NC State had a great first 20 minutes from deep. The Heels need to make sure they are connected defensively, communicating when put into ball-screen action, and make sure they are contesting every perimeter shot that Duke puts up. 

  2. Win Battle on the Inside: Even though Carolina won the first matchup, they gave up a whopping 54 points in the paint. Carolina was able to score 36 points, but if Duke is able to replicate that type of success, it gives them the advantage. Armando Bacot got the best of Kyle Filipowski in the first contest, recording a double-double, and trolling him, after finishing a basket after drawing the foul. You know that Filipowski will be motivated to respond, in what will likely be his final home game at Duke. It’s always a war between these two inside, that’ll be the case again tonight. Carolina needs to score inside the paint, but take away driving lanes for Duke’s guards, and make them earn everything inside. 

  3. Limit Turnovers: Turnovers have been an issue for Carolina at different various times, but it can’t be tonight. Jon Scheyer wasn’t happy with the way his team competed defensively in the first matchup, so you know they’ll look to pressure the ball, and probably pick up full-court. Elliot Cadeau wasn’t afraid of the moment in the first matchup, but tonight he’ll playing in the most hostile environment in college basketball. He’ll need to protect the basketball, as live ball turnovers are a death wish in Cameron Indoor Stadium. If Carolina turns it over fewer than 10 times, they got a great chance at winning, if not, it’s harder to see a pathway to winning. 

Series History: 

  • Carolina is 114-117 all-time against Duke,  having won 5 of the last 8 games between the two. In Durham, Carolina is a modest 50-56, and they are 39-47 in Cameron, but those 39 wins are the most by a visiting opponent in the historic venue. This is the 50th time they’ve met as top-10 teams, and Carolina is 25-24 in the previous 49 matchups. In the last 20 years, Carolina is 8-0 against Duke, when there are ACC regular season implications on the line. 


  • North Carolina - 8th overall. Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 118.1 (25th) Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 93.5 (6th)

  • Duke - 7th overall. Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 123.3 (7th) Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 96.9 (22nd) 


  • North Carolina - 10th. 

  • Duke - 9th. 

TV Info: Tonight’s game will tip at 6:30 PM on ESPN. 

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