College Basketball Preview: Will North Carolina Pull the Upset Against Duke?
Tonight, the North Carolina Tar Heels travel a whole eight miles to Cameron Indoor Stadium to take on the Duke Blue Devils in the latest installment of what might be the best rivalry in all of sports.
Now, some of you might argue with me on that, but there's one thing you can't argue with -- this rivalry is always exciting primetime television, and tonight should be no different.
Yeah, Duke (#4) is clearly ranked higher than UNC (#15) in the polls, but the two teams are very similar and quite evenly matched.
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With a quick glance at our numbers, that's clear. The Tar Heels and Blue Devils are ranked 11th and 8th in our power rankings, respectively, and both are great offensive teams and just pretty good defensive teams.
As you can see though, Duke has the edge offensively -- they are eighth in the nation in points per game, with 80.3 per game. However, UNC's no slouch on offense, as they score 78.7 points per contest. Duke is just better though with the likes of Jahlil Okafor, Tyus Jones, Quinn Cook and Justice Winslow leading their offensive attack.
As slim an offensive advantage as Duke has on North Carolina, the Tar Heels have the same advantage over the Dukies on the defensive end of the court.
Duke may give up less points per game (64.9) than Carolina (68.3), but the Tar Heels high pace of play has a lot to do with that. With the 16th-fastest pace in the country, UNC is still more efficient defensively. Roy Williams' defense is in the 78th percentile while Mike Krzyzewski's defense falls just below the 76th percentile.
Even with the numbers edge on defense, I don't think it will be enough for North Carolina to contain Duke's inside-out game. Led by outstanding freshman center, Jahlil Okafor, the Blue Devils are seventh in the nation in two-point percentage -- but they also shoot over 38% from three, which is good enough for 47th in the nation (despite shooting over 19 per game). Both of those numbers are superior to those of the Tar Heels.
So, in a game with two solid defenses and two great offenses, I expect Duke to win in a very high-scoring college hoops affair.
And if that's not enough -- as evenly matched as the two teams appear, I can't help but expect the Blue Devils to come out on top for another "it'll hit you in the face" reason.
We all know how tough they are at home year in and year out, and they've lost just one game at Cameron all season. On the other side of the matchup, UNC has struggled away from home this season. They're 5-3 on the road and have lost their last two out of three away from Chapel Hill.
Can the Tar Heels get a good win away from home -- as close as it may be -- or will Duke hold serve at home before going to Chapel Hill at the end of the season? Tune in tonight to witness another great game in this great college basketball rivalry.