The Duke Blue Devils take on the North Carolina Tar Heels tonight in the newest chapter in one of the best rivalries in sports. Duke has the most talked about team in my lifetime and probably one of the most talked about teams of all time. North Carolina is ranked 8th and has a chance to move into a tie for first place in the ACC with who else but the Blue Devils. So, a huge rivalry, two great teams, two legendary coaches, one of the most hyped and unique prospects college basketball has seen, and now we have the most hyped game of the college basketball season so far, tickets selling for thousands of dollars, and celebrities like Barack Obama and Todd Gurley in attendance. This game will be exciting.
Duke is a 9 point favorite and after their last couple performances that sounds about right. The Blue Devils are hot right now coming off a win over NC State, a 23-point comeback win on the road against Louisville, and a 10-point road win against Virginia. Cam Reddish is coming off a 2-15 shooting performance, I highly doubt he stays cold tonight. R.J. Barrett is coming off a triple double and will obviously play a huge role. Tre Jones may play as big of a role as anyone though as he will likely be tasked with stopping Coby White. Lastly, Zion Williamson. He is the biggest reason this game is being talked about so much and the most remarkable college basketball player I’ve ever seen. Zion has a chance to grow his legend even more with a big performance tonight securing his place in the long history of this rivalry and add his name with those synonymous to the rivalry itself. All season long Zion has matched huge expectations that seem outsized by the hype around him, tonight is one more opportunity to do so and I think he will have a huge game. If Duke loses, I don’t think that anybody will say it’s because Zion Williamson didn’t do enough.
The Tar Heels are ranked 8th and are just one game back of the first place Blue Devils in the conference standings. They need a strong defensive performance and a great shooting night to win. Garrison Brooks and Luke Maye need to shut down Marques Bolden. Everyone knows that Duke’s stars will get theirs, North Carolina absolutely cannot afford to give up easy buckets and second chance points to Bolden. I expect a huge performance from Coby White tonight. As I just said the Tar Heels need a great shooting night to win and I think Coby White will lead that. I could very easily see White getting hot and bringing this game down to the wire. Not only will White’s scoring play a role but limitting turnovers and his ability to find Cameron Johnson, Luke Maye, and others for open shots is very important as well. The Tar Heels’ experience could help them out a lot tonight. Johnson, Maye, and Kenny Williams all play big roles, are all seniors, and know what this rivalry is like. Duke on the other hand will start four freshmen that have never played in a game anything like this. However, if anyone could prepare them for tonight it’s Coach K. Cameron Indoor Stadium will be absolutely rocking tonight and who knows how any of the players will respond. The atmosphere will certainly play a role tonight.
When tipoff rolls around at 9 pm tonight I expect a great game to take place. Whenever Duke steps on the floor there is a chance it is a blowout no matter who the opponent is but I don’t think that will happen tonight. I think this is going to be a great game that will do all it can to live up to the hype. North Carolina has a chance to move itself into the top tier of teams in the nation tonight and I think that adds motivation to that given by the magnitude of the rivalry and the crowd tonight. Duke on the other hand is trying to stay atop the national rankings after moving up to #1 on Monday. This should be fun to watch.