Tobacco Road Rivalry Preview
Nine miles is all that stands between these storied blue blood programs. Thursday night Duke and North Carolina will meet in the legendary Dean Dome, the same Dome where Vince Carter terrorized Duke defenders at the rim, the same Dome where Michael Jordan infamously blurted out “The ceiling is the roof.” And, the same Dome that I watched Austin Rivers (my favorite player at the time) hit a game winning three pointer to silence the sold out crowd and give Duke the win. Tomorrow night is the latest page in this historic book that spans all the way back to 1920. And with these two teams, you never know what story will be written on that page. I’m going to give you the keys for each team and what I think gives them the best chance at walking away with a win.
Attack The Rim Hard
Duke’s biggest weakness is their depth, especially down low. The Tar Heels have to be in attack mode against Marvin Bagley and Wendell Carter in the paint. Those two bigs combined account for over 50% of Duke’s total rebounds. They also average about 36 points per game between the two of them while shooting over 60% from the field, getting one of these guys in early foul trouble would be huge for North Carolina.
Be Patient and Efficient on Offense
Duke will most likely go to their 2-3 zone after Shamorie Ponds from St. John’s torched their man-to-man defense for 33 points. The way to beat a zone is to move the ball efficiently, but to also be patient and not to force anything. It is crucial that North Carolina limits long rebounds and turnovers to Trevon Duval and Duke out of transition, where they are extremely dangerous. At the end of the day, Duke is the highest scoring team in the nation at about 90 points per game, so you are going to have to put up points in order to beat them, but Carolina cannot hand Duke easy opportunities in transition. If by chance Duke stays in man-to-man, all of these points still apply.
Feed the Post, Establish a Presence Early
North Carolina is awfully undersized compared to Duke’s Twin Towers. The tallest player in the Tar Heels starting lineup is Luke Maye at 6’7”. Marvin Bagley is listed at 6’11” and Wendell Carter at 6’10”. I’m sure Roy Williams will have his guys double the post immediately after they catch the ball, but that shouldn’t stop those two from having an absolute field day in the paint. It’s crucial they go to the bigs early for two reasons,first, it will make Roy Williams go to the inexperienced Freshmen Brandon Huffman and Sterling Manley since they are the only players on the roster that stand over 6’10”. And second, it will create easy kick outs for shooters Grayson Allen, Gary Trent Jr. and Alex O’Connell and get them into a rhythm.
Play a 2-3 Zone
This is my only other tip for the Blue Devils (as if Coach K really needs a tip from me) since I firmly believe they are the most talented team in the country, but their defense is what holds them back. Since the season started it’s been very obvious that Duke flat out cannot guard anyone man-to-man but is a pretty good zone team. I believe Coach K was just reluctant to accept this since there is no zone in the NBA, and he has five first round picks in his starting line up (Just my opinion). But, I think losing to St. John’s, who is winless in their conference, was the final straw for Coach K and he will finally let his team play zone. Duke is very long with three starters over 6’6” and their point guard Trevon Duval, has a 6’9” wing span despite only standing at 6’1”. Playing a 2-3 would make North Carolina really work for their buckets, as they are 10th in the ACC in three point percentage.
Although they are on the road, I think North Carolina is just too overmatched inside and is too inconsistent with their three ball to come away with a W against this extremely talented Duke team.
The X-Factor: Grayson Allen
The Senior has gotten himself into another mid-season slump, but he has a chance to turn it around in his last ever trip to the Dean Dome. If Allen can bring his normal energy and finally knock down some threes on the offensive end, Duke should go home with the win.