Turnovers have been an issue for Carolina at times this season, so the Tar Heels are trying to get ready for the particular brand of defense Duke plays before traveling to Cameron Indoor Stadium for Wednesday's 9 p.m. game.
Freshman point guard Ty Lawson said that teammate Quentin Thomas gave him a primer on to expect.
"Q told me a little bit during practice [on Monday]," Lawson said. "He said they grab you and foul you, and sometimes the refs might not see it. He just said be strong with the ball. You have to be stronger than you are most games. He said they will foul you; they will grab you."
Now if that sounds like some kind of Carolina bias, just remember that N.C. State coach Sidney Lowe described Duke's defense as clutching and grabbing after the two played earlier this season.
The Blue Devils, Coach Mike Krzyzewski in particular, would counter that Duke simply plays tough defense. So in the end, maybe it is just how one defines tough defense.
Some have portrayed Duke's version as five guys fouling at once. With that in mind, Carolina's Danny Green said the fifth-ranked Tar Heels (20-3, 6-2 in the ACC) are practicing for what they expect to encounter against 16th-ranked Duke (18-5, 5-4).
"It is easy to get frustrated," Green said, "but it shouldn't be any different than what we do in practice. We're practicing against each other just as aggressively as they will play. We try to practice as they will play against us and how we will play against them.
"So [in practice] our defense gets after you, gets real physical, does a lot of cheap reaching in and stuff like that. This week they will let a lot of stuff go [in practice] because you have to be strong with the ball there. If you're not strong with the ball, they're going to take it from you. So it shouldn't be a surprise to us. It won't be anything different from what we've been practicing."
The truth is this game will likely be a physical battle by both teams. These two always play one another tough anyway, and this time each is coming off a loss. N.C. State beat Carolina on Saturday, and the Blue Devils dropped their last two games.
So don't expect some lovely, offensive-oriented game. This one will be far more beastly than it will be beautiful, UNC coach Roy Williams said.
"It's like hand-to-hand combat," Williams said. "It is going to be a very physical game. It's going to be a very aggressive game. It's going to be a game that nobody is going to give an inch.
"We weren't trying to give anything last year, but it was 13-2 before the first TV timeout. I do believe it will be a defensive game more than anything. I really believe we're wounded a little bit; they're wounded a little bit. I really believe you'll see two groups of kids playing their tails off.
"My guess is it will not be a very pretty game," Williams said. "It will be two teams trying to compete like crazy. I'm hoping my team will be up to the task of bouncing back and going on the road to one of the truly great places in college basketball."
Marcus Ginyard is a sophomore so he's played two games in this series. He and his teammates left Cameron with a victory last year in the final regular-season game, a surprising upset of the Blue Devils in J.J. Redick and Shelden Williams' last home game.
"I think it is good we have to play Duke after a loss," Ginyard said. "This is definitely one of the games where you don't have to worry about your confidence level and things like that. This is a game in which everybody is ready and everybody is looking forward to it.
"There should be no question about our team's confidence level. Everybody is looking forward to this game."
And the Tar Heels know they had better be prepared for the Blue Devils to be disruptive at every turn.
"One through five, they play defense," Green said. "They're all over you."