Where: Cameron Indoor Stadium, Durham, NC
When: Saturday, March 8th, 9:00 PM
Records: UNC 28-2, 13-2 ACC; Duke 26-3, 13-2 ACC
High stakes game, very, very high.
Despite the fact these two teams have played at the top of the ACC for most of the past 20+ years, this is the first time since 1991 they have faced each other in the regular season finale in a winner takes all game to decide the regular season outright. Along with that is the #1 seed in the ACC Tournament and great positioning the #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. So despite the fact you have the greatest rivalry in college athletics taking the court and all that goes with that, this game will be more about the postseason implications.
For UNC this game is as much about getting the team adjusted to the return of Ty Lawson and his getting back to 100%. Obviously he will not be on Saturday which is a source of great disappointment for UNC fans like myself who have waited to see Lawson go horrible and unspeakable things off the dribble to Greg Paulus. We can only hope Lawson playing at 80% will still provide us that high quality of entertainment. The other question question is whether Quentin Thomas can be effective against the Duke pressure. I also still think we will see some of Lawson and QT on the floor just to give Duke issues guarding on the perimeter.
Speaking of the perimeter, Wayne Ellington and Danny Green need to show up when it comes to shooting the ball. Granted Duke did a great job playing defense, they still had plenty of open looks. It is paramount the outside shooters show up and force Duke to defend outside the lane so Tyler Hansbrough can have his way in the post. Deon Thompson or Alex Stepheson playing productive at the four spot also can make it more difficult for Duke to double down and making them defend another bigger player.
Of course as much as the offense is under the microscope, the defense could win or lose the game. UNC was baited into doing what Duke wanted them to do giving the Devils open three point looks. Obviously the Heels need to be more careful in how they help on defense if it means leaving an open shooter on the perimeter. The one thing I cannot say for sure is whether or not Roy will opt for a zone since it has been effective in two Duke losses. It seems like, to the common fan, that using a zone would be effective get Duke out of their offensive flow. Roy does not like zone but might be inclined to use it if necessary.
All that being said, if UNC shows up to play then I like their chances because they are the better and more complete team. But the way this season is going nothing would surprise me at this point.
UNC 89 Duke 80