Previewing North Carolina

Previewing the Blue Devils and Tar Heels who will renew college basketball's greatest rivalry tonight beginning at 9:00 PM EST. The game will be broadcast by ESPN.

North Carolina (17-5) vs. Duke (21-2)
Durham, N.C. -- Cameron Indoor Stadium
TV: Raycom 9:00 PM EST (Tim Brando & Mike Gminiski)
MEET THE TAR HEELS

Head Coach: Roy Williams (8th Year)
Record at North Carolina: 213-59
Career v. Duke: 7-7

Projected Starters:
? 5 Kendall Marshall (6-3, 185 Fr.) – 4.5 ppg, 5.0 apg
1 Dexter Strickland (6-3, 180, So.) – 8.6 ppg, 3.3 rpg
44 Tyler Zeller (7-0, 250, Jr.) - 14.1 ppg, 6.9 rpg
31 John Henson (6-10, 210, So.) – 11.1 ppg, 8.5 rpg, 3.0 bpg
40 Harrison Barnes (6-8, 210, Fr.) – 13.3 ppg, 5.5 rpg

Top Reserves:
35 Reggie Bullock (6-7, 190, Fr.) – 7.3 ppg, 3.0 rpg
25 Justin Knox (6-9, 240, Sr.) – 6.0 ppg, 4.0 rpg
2 Leslie McDonald (6-4, 215, So.) – 7.2 ppg, 1.5 rpg


Series History: This will be the 230th meeting between the Tar Heels and Blue Devils with North Carolina holding a 130-99 lead in the all-time series. However, Duke has won 19 of the last 28 meetings

North Carolina enters Wednesday night having won four of the previous six meetings at Cameron Indoor Stadium, but have lost nine of the last 14 contests held on historic Coach K court.

Duke leads the all-time series against the Heels by a 39-34 margin in games played in Durham, though head coach Roy Williams has posted an impressive 4-3 mark since returning to Chapel Hill. Much of the success enjoyed by Williams against Duke can be traced, surprisingly enough, to defense. The Blue Devils have never shot better than 50 percent from the field against a Williams coached Tar Heel side.

Under head coach Mike Krzyzewski the Blue Devils are 34-35 against the Tar Heels.

North Carolina Roster: Click Here
North Carolina Statistics: Click Here
North Carolina Schedule: Click Here


PRE-GAME NOTES:

""I feel more comfortable with the way we're playing. It will be a monumental task, there's no question about that. But I think our guys will try extremely hard, and I think everybody will be together." - Roy Williams

"You have to do everything you can to do a good job defensively; you've got to get some easy ones on the break, and you've got to be able to make open shots, you've got to be able to play without turning the ball over, you've got to try to not put them on the free throw line very often. They're going to make a bunch of 3s, you've got to guard them and try to cut that percentage down. You really do have to play the complete game because they're really a phenomenal club." - Williams

Season To Date: Despite boasting a roster with more McDonald's All-Americans than anyone else, the Tar Heels once again stumbled out of the gate in 2010-2011, losing three of seven en route to turning a preseason top 7 ranking into a several week stay in the "Others Receiving Votes" category. However, over the last 12 games it's been a much different team as the Heels have won 11 of those contests - many in impressive fashion including the last two victories over Boston College and Florida State by an average of 26.0 points.

The System Rebooted: After the departure of much maligned point guard Larry Drew, the Tar Heels have been afforded the opportunity and luxury of playing freshman PG Kendall Marshall more and more. The newcomer has responded in a big way, posting an amazing 16 assists against Florida State during his first game as the team's primary point guard. And since taking over for Drew, the Tar Heel offense is scoring a staggering 17.0 points per game more. In those game started by Drew the team shot just 35 percent from the floor. Since Marshall got the ball? 51.1 percent. Despite his strong play, Marshall cannot be counted on for a full 40 minutes this early in his career (though he may play in the mid 30s), and when he's out of the game the ball will be in the hands of second year scoring guard Dexter Strickland. Though he's one of the more athletic guards in the conference, Strickland is not a point guard and his struggles at the position have been well documented over the last year.

Relevance In The Paint: After the experiment of playing small forward didn't yield the desired results, sophomore John Henson committed himself to developing more of a post game during the off-season. The results speak for themselves as Henson's production on both ends of the floor has shot up along with his NBA Draft stock. During conference play the 6'10 Henson leads the league in field goal percentage (58.4 percent) and blocked shots per game (3.1). What makes Henson's numbers even more impressive is that he's posting them in somewhat limited action. Through 22 games he's played 30 minutes or more just twice and never more than 31 minutes in any game this season.

Opposite Henson is junior Tyler Zeller who has battled injuries over his first few years and is now healthy and producing in a big way. The seven footer is the team's leading scorer (14.1 per game) and has score in double figures in 18 of 22 contests while never scoring fewer than eight points in any game. Early in the season Zeller seemed a bigger part of the offense, but over the last four games he's taken just 26 shots from the field - a full three attempts fewer than his season average of 9.5. Despite the cut in shot attempts, the Indiana native has proven able to stay out of foul trouble while also recording an average of 1.2 blocks per game.

The Other Rookie In The ACC: Basketball is a funny game. Throughout the preseason the hype surrounding Tar Heel rookie Harrison Barnes are unparalleled. After earning MVP honors in the McDonald's game, the 6'8 Iowa product arrived on Tobacco Road and was promptly anointed a preseason All-American. But then a funny thing happened. Barnes, like most freshmen, struggled at times with the adjustment to the college game. Such struggles are understandable and even expected for rookies. But Barnes was supposed to be different. And it certainly didn't help that Duke rookie Kyrie Irving was proving to be the genuine article on a nightly basis. Unfortunately, Duke would lose Irving to a freak injury in December and haven't seen him on the court since. Meanwhile Barnes has been on a production roller coaster as he learned how to incorporate himself into Williams' offense. Perhaps, after more than half the season, he's finally done it. Certainly the last three games seem to suggest as much as Barnes has posted 22.7 points and 7.3 rebounds per game while shooting 26-of-46 (.565) from the field and 9-of-20 (.450) from the perimeter.

Duke Noteables: The Blue Devils will be looking to move to 22-2 (9-1 ACC) on the season against North Carolina, but there are some additional notes worth following:

  • The Blue Devils' current 32-game win streak at Cameron Indoor Stadium is the longest active streak in the country and the fourth-longest home win streak in program history.
  • Duke has only lost two home games in the past four seasons, posting a record of 61-2 in Cameron Indoor Stadium during that span. The Blue Devils have won 15 straight home games against ACC opponents.
  • Duke has won 26 consecutive games in the state of North Carolina. The Blue Devils' last loss in the state was at N.C. State on Jan. 20. 2010.
  • Mason Plumlee has raised his rebound average an ACC-best 5.7 rebounds per game from a year ago. He ranks fourth in the ACC in rebounding at 8.8 rpg. and has grabbed 10 or more rebounds in eight of nine ACC contests.
  • Kyle Singler has scored in double figures in an ACC-best 21 straight games. Singler has scored 10 or more points in 117 of his 134 career games. He has reached double figures in 53 of 57 ACC regular season games. Singler is 35 points shy of 1,000 career points in ACC regular season play.
  • Duke leads the NCAA with a +20.0 points per game scoring margin. The Blue Devils have won 11 games by 20 or more points this season, including six wins by 30+ points.
  • Nolan Smith is attempting to become the first player in ACC history to lead the league in scoring and assists. Smith is currently averaging 21.0 points and 5.6 assists per game. He is one of four players in the NCAA averaging over 20.0 points and 5.0 assists per game.


WHAT TO WATCH FOR

Any fan of either program knows that when Duke and Carolina get tighter anything can happen. A season ago the Tar Heels had, arguably, the most raw talent in the ACC but were blown out in Cameron by 32. This year, however, each team welcomes fresh faces to the rotation - and lately it's the North Carolina newcomers making the biggest changes as the Heels come to Durham confident and playing extremely well. A few weeks ago anything less than a blowout would have been unexpected as North Carolina was struggling to find an identity. Now, ugly point guard divorce later, picking the Heels to win in Cameron isn't out of the question. There are several factors that have to been examined when determining a winner. How will the Tar Heel freshmen react to the environment? How will Duke's high pressure defense impact the North Carolina offense? Can North Carolina stay focused on the defensive end to negate Duke's offense? How will the Heels match up with Kyle Singler (note that Reggie Bullock has already pointed out how Duke shouldn't defend him)?. For Duke, the big men have to play well. Henson and Zeller can both cause problems inside and the Blue Devils must box out and not commit silly fouls. In the end, with all things being equal on the court, Duke has the homecourt and the experience edge. That should be enough to get it done on Wednesday. But it won't be easy. And it won't be a blowout.

Prediction:
Duke - 81
North Carolina - 74


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