Alex Conway & John Gwaltney Jr
This week North Carolina participates in a
little basketball game with a team from Durham.
Apparently it's a pretty big deal.
UNC will travel to Cameron Indoor Stadium to take on the Duke
Blue Devils tomorrow night. The game will feature one team
being considered as a national title contender and another trying to
contend for a NCAA tournament berth.
The sizeable difference in accolades marks the difference between
this year's version of the rivalry and versions from year's past.
Normally, this is a game that decides who will most likely be
crowned regular season champion in the ACC. This year,
bragging rights will have to do if everything stays on its current
Duke at a glance
Durham, North Carolina Nickname: Blue Devils Colors: Royal Blue & White Conference: ACC Arena: Cameron Indoor Stadium (9,314) 2011-2012 Record: 27-7 (13-3) Last Game: W 61-60 on Feb. 10, 2013 at Boston College Last Game vs. UNC: L 88-70 on March 3, 2012 in Durham More on the Blue Devils: Schedule
GAME PREVIEW THOUGHTS
Reggie Bullock is the only starter remaining from the line-up
that took the court at Duke during the season finale last year.
Bullock had a nice game, finishing with 12 points in 29 minutes
and hitting on two big three-pointers.
UNC jumped out to a 48-24 lead against Duke in that one.
Bullock was just a complimentary player back then but, along with
James Michael McAdoo, will be the focus this time around.
Can Bullock put on a Kendall Marshall performance?
Last year Marshall felt disrespected when Duke played the last
second Austin Rivers game-winning shot from earlier in the year just
before tip-off. Marshall gathered his teammates and told them
to make a statement.
Bullock has been the most vocal leader the Tar Heels have had
this year. Has he been telling them to make a statement
Bullock has scored double-digit points the last three games.
Look for him to get his shot going early against the Blue Devils.
Efficiency and focus
UNC is ninth in points per game, fifth in rebounds per game,
second in assists per game yet sit 114th in field goal percentage.
Something isn't adding up.
It's been a different kind of team for UNC Head Coach
Roy Williams. They still score, as evidenced by their
position in the standings, but they rely more on the outside shot
than ever before.
Being such a perimeter oriented team has come at a price.
Long rebounds lead to run-outs and UNC has struggled to get back on
N.C. State outscored them 20-0 in fast break points during one
half of basketball.
Williams is clearly hoping that the defensive prowess of
Dexter Strickland and
Desmond Hubert will offset for a lack of offense, but it should
be noted that UNC hasn't started the last few games particularly
Learning experiences, learning experiences and more
It's been said time and again and everyone is tired of hearing
about it but the fact remains that this Tar Heels team is young.
It's always worth wondering how the inexperience will rear its head
once the games start.
There isn't a more hallowed arena in the ACC than Cameron Indoor
Stadium. There isn't a student section that gets more
hyperbole thrown its way than the Cameron Crazies.
There isn't a rivalry like UNC-Duke.
North Carolina (16-7, 6-4) vs. Duke
Date: Wed, Feb 13,
2013 Time: 9:00 PM EST Venue:
Cameron Indoor Stadium (9,314) TV:ESPN/ACC
Network Radio: Tar Heel Sports
Network & SiriusXM (Sirius 113, XM 191) Series: UNC leads, 132-102
(UNC is 47-49 vs. Duke in Durham and 35-40 vs. the Blue Devils in
Cameron Indoor Stadium)
Last starting line-up for Duke (against
F - Mason Plumlee F - Amile Jefferson G - Rasheed Sulaimon
G - Seth Curry G - Quinn Cook
This is a game that allows a recruiting class to
put its stamp on its time at UNC. For
J.P. Tokoto and
Marcus Paige that means an opportunity to make up for the goose egg
that was the N.C. State game at PNC Arena.
This team hasn't made the jump from joggers to
full blown runners but they've definitely gotten past the infancy stages
where every new moment was met with some sort of struggle.
The biggest thing UNC has struggled with this
season is meeting the moment with the ability to conquer it. UNC
didn't have the urgency it needed from the get-go in games against
Indiana, N.C. State and Miami.
Williams talked about drawing a line in the
sand, being prepared to cross it and hitting someone in the mouth during
his radio show Monday night. If they come out lethargic Wednesday
night it's likely that Williams has players that might never understand
how to reach the level needed to compete in the ACC.
If they come out foaming at the mouth ready for
a (figurative) fight, then Williams won't need to preach about being
prepared to start the game, instead he can focus on building up his team
and their experience, win or lose.
Beating Duke will do wonders for how fans and
media members remember them.
Beat Duke and all of a sudden it doesn't feel
like a season that didn't reach the high standard UNC fans and alumni
set for its basketball program.
Instead it feels like a glorious Monday morning
where the sky is just the right shade of blue.
It will also help quite nicely in the quest to
make the NCAA tournament.