Diving into Tonight’s Big Matchup Duke vs UNC

In the second of two semifinal games Friday, Duke and UNC continue their rivalry and face off for the third time this season. The teams share a dramatic history and the rivalry is considered the greatest in college basketball. Duke is looking to see how they match up with their big 3 all healthy. UNC is looking to beat Duke three times in a season for the first time since 1976. Both teams are aiming to advance to the ACC Championship. IT DOESN’T GET BETTER THAN THIS!

Season series: 2-0 UNC

Injury Report: 

Duke is without Marques Bolden due to a knee injury.

There are no reported injuries for UNC.

Three Keys for a Duke win:

  1. Attack the rim. Duke has attempted 30+ threes in only five games this season. Two of those were against UNC, and they were both losses. In those games, they combined for 16-71, a measly 22.5 percent. With Zion back, they have to attack the rim and get shots inside.
  2. Rebound the ball. These are the top two rebounding teams in the NCAA. Carolina throws a lot of bodies at the boards, and Duke has to be ready to match their hustle. Without Marques Bolden, there is a gap down low that the team has to fill. Luckily, RJ Barrett is averaging 12.5 rebounds against UNC this year. Having Williamson back will be a big help, but he will have his work cut out for him considering Luke Maye’s boxing out abilities.
  3. Move (and take care of) the ball. In the first matchup between these teams, Duke had 9 assists and 20 turnovers. They lost by 16. In the second game, they had 15 assists and 12 turnovers. They ended up losing that game by 9. Carolina plays at a higher pace than Duke. They will feast in transition if Duke can’t take care of the ball.

Three Keys for a UNC win:

  1. Force switches on defense. These two teams match-up well across the starters. UNC can make the most out of forcing switches, though. Neither team tends to go very deep off the bench, and if Carolina can force switches and draw fouls, they can create a considerable size advantage. The Coby White-Luke Maye pick and roll/pop should be a solid option for this.
  2. Utilize experience. UNC has more experienced players in their rotation and they will lean on them when the game is tight. Per Sports Reference, UNC’s average player has 2 years of experience, compared to only .7 for Duke. Without Bolden, Duke’s primary rotation only features two upperclassmen in White and DeLaurier, neither of which possess the skills Carolina’s upperclassmen do. Luke Maye and Kenny Williams will be huge tonight for the Tar Heels.
  3. Defense. Carolina comes into this game giving up 73 points per game, which ranks 220th in the nation, according to Sports Reference. Duke averages 84 per game. This will be the first time Zion is active against Carolina, and he is coming off a historic game against Syracuse. How Carolina decides to defend this team with him on the floor will be crucial.

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