Rivalry picks: Duke hosts North Carolina
Posted February 13, 2013
Durham, N.C. —
Wednesday's contest at Cameron Indoor marks the 235th meeting between in-state rivals North Carolina and Duke.
The Tar Heels hold a 132-102 advantage in the series. This is the first meeting between the two teams this season. During the 2012 season, Duke won the first match-up 85-84 when Austin Rivers buried a 3-pointer at the horn. North Carolina earned the ACC regular-season title on their second meeting, March 3, 2012, with an 88-70 win at Cameron Indoor.
The No. 2 Blue Devils are 21-2 (8-2 ACC) on the season and undefeated at home, North Carolina is 16-7 (6-4 ACC). Duke forward Ryan Kelly is still out for the Blue Devils and North Carolina forward Joel James has been ruled out with a concussion.
As in any rivalry, it is not about the record; it is about the pride and bragging rights that go along with beating the combatant with whom you share nothing more than bad blood.
The WRAL sports staff weighs in on Wednesday's rivalry game offering their keys to the game and tell you who they think will win.
Roy Williams led off his Tuesday press conference with news that Joel James won’t be able to play against Duke because of a concussion. They have had players miss time this year but this is unfortunate timing for the Tar Heels. James is a big body who could lean on Mason Plumlee and a Williams pointed out, it’s a lot tougher to score over James than it is Brice Johnson, Desmond Hubert and Jackson Simmons. How much can Carolina risk having James Michael McAdoo square up against Plumlee? McAdoo said he can’t have a foul plagued game like he did against NC State.
As lopsided as it may seem in favor of Duke, it’s extremely difficult to get lulled into false confidence in a series like this. Mike Krzyzewski was sure to point that out saying, “They can beat the heck out of us tomorrow night. We could play well and lose to them.” How many times do you think his team has heard that?
There have been times this year when North Carolina has lacked focus or just plain lost interest in playing. After getting their teeth kicked in at Miami, that shouldn’t be an issue in the next game, plus it’s the Duke game. I fully expect to see the “good” Carolina when ball it tossed at 9pm.
Home court advantage right? Well since the 2005-06 season, the home team is 5-9 in the series. Duke won in Chapel Hill last year and Carolina returned the favor in Durham. But the trend this year is the home team winning at a 70% clip. Protecting their turf was a topic at the beginning of the year and their only 2 losses this year were at NC State and at Miami. I will take the Blue Devils at home.
Pick: Duke 84 UNC 77
Carolina's troubles against strong perimeter shooting teams seem to make this a tailor-made matchup for Duke. But that assumes the Devils are shooting well. How effective the Tar Heels' perimeter defense proves to be in frustrating Duke's 3-point shooters will go a long way towards determining a winner in this game. Still... even if Duke's long-range shooting goes cold, I expect Mason Plumlee to have a strong game against Carolina's developing core of big men. Duke pulls away to win this one.
Pick: Duke 82 UNC 70
I'm going with Duke for this one. Duke has been the more consistent team this season and they are more experienced. UNC certainly has the talent to win, but they haven't given me a reason to pick them in a big game like this yet. I expect it to be close, but the Blue Devils will have the edge.
On the surface, this pick seems like a no-brainer: #2 Duke against an unranked Carolina team, at home. Slam dunk, right? Well, hold the phone. How much has home-court advantage counted for in this series as of late? In short, bupkis. Since the 2005-06 season, the visiting team actually holds a record of 9-5, hard to believe considering the chaotic atmosphere each side brings to their respective home digs. Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski said on Tuesday that he believes that both teams playing regularly in frenzied environments may have something to do with the visitors’ victories. So, does that mean it’s Tar Heel time on Wednesday? I can’t see it happening. The Blue Devils are really starting to hit their stride without Ryan Kelly in the lineup and despite UNC being very good on the offensive glass, I think Mason Plumlee still pulls down a double-double.
Pick: Duke 82 UNC 73
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I'm probably the last one still harping on the possibilities of North Carolina, individually. I still believe that they have at least some of the pieces necessary to deal with a team that relies on perimeter for a sizable chunk of their offense. With the likes of Reggie Bullock, Dexter Strickland, Leslie McDonald and the more than capable P.J. Hairston, the Tar Heels have the athletic talent necessary to defend Duke's 3-point shooting weapons in Seth Curry, Quinn Cook and Rasheed Sulaimon -- all of whom make more than 40% of their shots from beyond the arc.
Only the statistics say otherwise.
In conference play, North Carolina is allowing teams to make 38% of their 3-point attempts and when you couple that with the fact that Duke is making 40% of their long-distance shots it spells nothing but disaster for UNC defensively. On top of that, Mason Plumlee has hit is second-semester stride, averaging 21.6 points and 8 rebounds per game during the Blue Devils' 5-game winning streak. In addition, the senior co-captain has converted 75% of his field goal attempts (40 of 53) in that span while playing more than 36 minutes in four of those games.
The only way Carolina is likely to stop Plumlee is to use all of the necessary fouls from Desmond Hubert, Brice Johnson and Jackson Simmons and hope Mason misses a whole bunch of free throws. However, even there, Plumlee has bounced back to be a 75% shooter, making 27 of his last 36 from the line. Carolina has some offensive weaponry as well, with Hairston, Bullock and McDonald all very good from long range. But, as a team, they don't get nearly enough inside production and that's why you see the Tar Heels shooting an unfathomable 43% from the field in league play.
Only the rivalry can keep this close.
Pick: Duke 83 UNC 70
It's all about the start in Cameron. Up until the win over NC State, Duke had allowed visitors to keep it relatively competitive early in the game. On the flip side, North Carolina has been plagued by slow starts on the road.
Even if the Heels keep it close, they face plenty of matchup issues as the game progresses. Desmond Hubert and Brice Johnson will have their hands full with Mason Plumlee. In ACC losses, their perimeter defense has allowed nearly 50% from beyond the arc. Duke is on pace to be Coach K's second most accurate 3-point shooting team, hitting nearly 41% of their attempts this season.
You can say throw out the records in this game, but you really can't. Duke is the better team this year and while the teams split last year with the road team winning each game last season, that isn't going to happen here.
North Carolina has to use their size on the perimeter and get some match-up problems for Duke's smaller guards to create foul trouble. The Heels also need to be hot from behind the arc, and at with the lead. James Michael McAdoo has to be a factor in the paint, but he has a bad back and Joel James is out with a concussion, so guarding Mason Plumlee has just gotten tougher.
For Duke, it's simple, keep playing like they have post-Miami. Duke will look to knock down shots early and then feed the beast in the paint to control the tempo. The Blue Devils biggest concerns are rebounding and getting back in transition and one will help the other.
This can be a close game, but too much is going for Duke right now to pick an upset.
Pick: Duke 83 UNC 72
North Carolina is the best rebounding team in the ACC. Duke has struggled with teams that are good at it. Mason Plumlee is the best rebounder in the ACC. I think this game is going to be won on the boards. Because of that, I think this is going to be a big game for Carolina to turn the corner. The problem is they haven't been able to defend the three pointer. Duke just happens to have one of best in Seth Curry. Curry is going to have a big game, 30+ pts, and it's going to be a tight game. However, Duke wins down the stretch.
Pick: Duke 83 UNC 79
North Carolina has been harshly judged this season as being “down” compared to Tar Heel teams in the past. Their record justifies that as they have seven losses already, four in the ACC. But few realize that the Tar Heels are No. 2 in the nation in assists per game, No. 5 in the nation in rebounds per game and No. 9 in the nation in points per game.
The Tar Heels’ offensive numbers are there; their defensive numbers and game results are not – especially on the road. UNC (16-7, 6-4 ACC) has suffered five of their seven losses away from the Dean Dome and surrendered at least 82 points in five of their seven losses as well.
Duke has been perfect at home this year and is averaging better than 81 points per game at Cameron. Meanwhile, they have only allowed more than 78 points once. Duke (21-2, 8-2) is No. 2 in the AP poll, and based on overall body of work, have a great claim to be No. 1.
Wednesday’s game will be close at the tip, and the rivalry atmosphere may make it closer than it otherwise might be, but the fact of the matter is the Blue Devils are a better unit – even without Ryan Kelly. Duke wins and they may coast.
Pick: Duke 86 UNC 72
The Blue Devils are 12-0 at home this season and there's no reason they shouldn't come out of Wednesday nights game 13-0. There is no doubt that North Carolina has talented players but the team has struggled to play as a unit for most of the year, an area where Duke has been excelling.
The Blue Devils have worked together to make up for the loss of Ryan Kelly and different players have stepped up to fill that void. If the Tar Heels are going to hang with the Blue Devils someone on the light blue squad will need to step up and take over the game. As evident in the game against Miami, if all the players play a medicore game they won't be able to keep up, so at least one player will have to have a break out game.
The post game will be important, rebounds will be key. Duke's Mason Plumlee and North Carolina's James Michael McAdoo will battle throughout but experience should lean towards the Blue Devils. On the outside the Heels will need to stay on Seth Curry, because a hot Curry will burn anyone. North Carolina will need to jump out of the gate early, because playing catch up won't be an option, and any chance at taking the crowd out of the game will help. That being said this is Duke's game to win, how bad it is will depend on the team that North Carolina puts on the floor.
Throw out the record books! (Sorry, couldn't help myself.)
In all seriousness, I get the feeling tonight's game will end up being pretty competitive. With everyone spending the majority of the last few days talking about how the Tar Heels don't have a chance, it only makes sense that they will show up at Cameron Indoor Stadium and play inspired. Tough part for the Heels is that an inspired game still might not be enough to down Duke on the road. It's just that sort of season in Chapel Hill.
When you go position-by-position down the two rosters, there aren't many matchups that favor the team in light blue. Mason Plumlee will present numerous issues on the defensive end, a problem that could translate into open 3-point shots if the Heels don't rotate well off double teams. Given the choice, I'd let Plumlee score 35 and take my chances trying to close out on shooters (or prevent them from being open in the first place). Your move, Roy.
On the other end, there are matchups North Carolina can look to take advantage of. If Duke chooses to let Amile Jefferson/Josh Hairston/Alex Murphy defend James Michael McAdoo in order to keep Mason Plumlee fresh for the other end, the Heels should look to go inside. Say what you will about McAdoo's "finesse" game, none of those players can defend him well for 40 minutes.
The other key for the Tar Heels -- wait for it -- will be point guard play. Can Marcus Paige withstand the firestorm generated by Duke's pressure defense and the Cameron Crazies. NC State freshman Tyler Lewis handled himself quite well a week ago, so assuming Paige doesn't have to go to bed at halftime, performing well in his first trip to Duke isn't an impossible task.
Pick: Duke 81 UNC 73