Breaking down Duke v. North Carolina

The Blue Devils will host their rivals on senior night in Durham. The Blue Devils enter the game needing a victory after a poor showing on Wednesday. Read on for the complete positional breakdown, statistics, and more.

Duke vs. N Carolina
Mar. 8 at 9 pm
Cameron Indoor Stdm


Overall Record 23-7 (.767) 23-7 (.767)
Location Record 16-0 (1.000) at home 6-4 (.600) on road
Scoring/G: PF&PA(Rank) 79.3 (23) 76.2 (55) 66.6 (85) 67.9 (116)
Rebound Margin/G: RM(Rank) 1.5 (147) 6.0 (20)
7.1 (75) 7.4 (51)
Assists/G: A(Rank)
14.9 (47) 15.8 (20)
Field-Goal Percentage: FG%(Rank) 46.4 (70) 46.1 (79)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 3FG%(Rank) 39.5 (16) 33.7 (197)
Field-Goal Percentage Against: FG%(Rank) 44.6 (227) 40.5 (44)
Ranking: Coaches' Poll #4 #14
AP Poll
#4 #14


9 (85.9) 27 (80.5)
Point Guard

PG: Tyler Thornton (6-2, 190, Sr.) vs. Marcus Paige (6-1, 175, So.)

Paige is North Carolina's leading scorer and, despite being only a sophomore, the unquestioned leader of the Tar Heel squad. Whenever UNC needs a big shot, Paige is there to answer the call. He's improved so much in his second season that many see him as a dark horse candidate for ACC Player of the Year honors. In the first match-up, Duke did a fair job of containing the Tar Heel star for the first half, but had no answer for him after halftime. When his team needed him the most, Paige took control of the game and methodically guided his team back from an 11 point deficit by scoring 13 points - most on drives to the goal. Duke will counter with either Thornton or Cook - both of which can bother Paige, but haven't proven to be on his level this season.

Shooting Guard

SG: Rasheed Sulaimon (6-4, 190, So.) vs. Leslie McDonald (6-5, 215, Sr.)

It's tough to give Duke the advantage here because of how good McDonald was in the first meeting. The senior returned from an early season suspension to score 21 points on 9-of-12 shooting. Most of those shots, however, were due to Duke's defense inexplicably leaving McDonald for wide open attempts. Since that game, McDonald has turned in a pair of clunker performances mixed in with a couple of solid showings. Against NC State and Notre Dame the senior played 26 minutes per game and averaged 3.5 points (3-of-13 FG). However, against Wake Forest and Virginia Tech McDonald played 31 minutes per game and produced 16.5 points (10-of-20 FG). Sulaimon, like McDonald, has been up and down at times this year, and was definitely down in round one (2-of-10 shooting). As with most of his team, the Texas sophomore has struggled with his perimeter shot of late, hitting just 7-of-24 from long range over the last five games. However, the game is at home where Sulaimon is hitting 43 percent of his attempts since Feb 1.

Small Forward

SF: Rodney Hood (6-8, 215, So.) vs. J.P. Tokoto (6-5, 200, So.)

Before he got into foul trouble, Rodney Hood was easily the best player on the floor in the first matchup. The 6'8 sophomore scored from the perimeter, off the bounce, and with his mid-range game. He certainly cooled off after half-time as fouls began to mount and took him out of rhythm, but for a while North Carolina had no answers. Where Hood was bested by Tokoto was on the glass. The bouncy Tar Heel recorded seven rebounds and finished off the bounce with regularity. Tokoto's 9 points and seven rebounds were key during a run that allowed the Heels to rally and then take control of the game. With Cameron likely to be at a fever pitch, the Tar Heels will look for a number of momentum plays, and Tokoto is the Heel to watch for there. If he can bother Hood as much as he did after half-time in the Smith Center, North Carolina will be in prime position for a second straight upset.

Power Forward

PF: Jabari Parker (6-8, 240, Fr.) vs. James Michael McAdoo (6-9, 230, Jr.)

In the first match-up Parker won the head to head battle with McAdoo, though the Tar Heel junior's defense and ability to draw offensive fouls slowed Parker during North Carolina's critical run. Parker finished with 17 points and 11 rebound, but he also committed five turnovers and was charged with four fouls - two offensive. Parker bothered a number of shots by McAdoo and held him to 5-of-14 on the night, but McAdoo did manage 10 points and 10 rebounds. Duke will likely look to establish Parker early on in the game by going after McAdoo on the block or pulling him outside with Parker's face up game. If Jabari gets hot early on, McAdoo hasn't shown the ability to match him.


C: Amile Jefferson (6-9, 215, So.) vs. Kennedy Meeks (6-9, 290, Fr.)

Meeks wasn't overly effective in the first match-up against Duke, scoring just four points and grabbing six rebounds in 16 minutes. Duke actually recorded blocks on three of his five field goal attempts in that matchup. Where he factors in and actually has the advantage over Jefferson begins with physics. A little bit taller and a lot bigger, Meeks is able to (and does) establish position that forced Jefferson to reach to challenge shots. That resulted in four fouls on Jefferson and a limited offensive showing of just 2 points and three rebounds in 23 minutes. Meeks probably can't keep up if this turns into a faster paced game, but in the half court he's going to cause an undersized Duke team problems in the paint and on the glass, especially on block-outs.


Bench: The Tar Heels will have more size in the reserves, but Duke has more punch. The Tar Heels will bring bigs such as Desmond Hubert, Brice Johnson, Joel James, and even Isaiah Hicks off the pine to rebound and score around the basket. Carolina also has guard Nate Britt, who isn't much a shooting threat, but does have speed and quickness to get into the lane and either draw contact or throw the ball up towards the rim where the legions of Heel bigs are waiting to tap out rebounds. Still, Duke can counter with a number of different options - most notable being recently discovered post presence, Marshall Plumlee. The team's only true center, Plumlee began his recent run of strong play against Carolina, with 16 strong minutes off the bench. Duke doesn't need him to score, just be in the paint and bother shots and rebound on both ends. Over the last four games Plumlee is averaging 15.0 rebounds per 40 minutes of action. Additionally, Duke is due (in theory) for a big night from Andre Dawkins. The senior will be playing his final game at Duke in what has been a roller coaster of a career. Dawkins' pure jump shot has been faltering of late as his minutes have evaporated. Since scoring 17 against Wake Forest on February 4th, Dawkins has totaled just 26 points in seven games while hitting only 5-of-21 from long range. As a freshman, Dawkins won some important games for the Blue Devils by getting hot from outside. That will be needed on Saturday. Lastly, former starting point guard Quinn Cook has been MIA over the last month. As a result he's lost his role on the team, and the offense has sputter and topped 70 points once in the last six games. Cook was very good against Carolina in the first game (17 points on 7-of-13 shooting), and Duke will hope he's back on track in this round.

Coaching: Mike Krzyzewski vs. Roy Williams

Both coaches started the season with teams considered among the top 10 in the country. Both coaches have seen their teams play terrific and then throw it all away with play that's somewhat inexplicable. For his part, Williams has his team playing well over the last month and he's gotten his team up for the biggest games of the season (North Carolina is 5-1 against ranked opponents). Krzyzewski, meanwhile, has battled his team head on for a while. The Blue Devils have a ton of talent, but at times it's been downright dysfunctional. Duke has more ‘bad' losses in 2013-2014 than any Blue Devil team in recent memory, and the team is coming off yet another one on Wednesday night against Wake Forest. In the first match-up Williams adjusted his team's approach on the defensive end, and Duke couldn't counter. It lead to a 15 point turnaround after halftime. Given the midweek performance against Wake Forest, would you bet on Duke coming out flat again on Saturday?


76 71
Prediction: It's the final time Andre Dawkins, Tyler Thornton, and Josh Hairston will play in Cameron Indoor Stadium. That could very well be true of Parker and Hood as well. Duke comes into Saturday night needing a victory for any number of reasons. ACC and NCAA Tournament seeding, finding some momentum, senior night emotion, or some combination of them all — take your pick. A loss to the Tar Heels would further demoralize a team that has struggled to play to its potential for extended periods of time, and it would assure Duke a spot as the four seed in Greensboro…and it would probably knock the Blue Devils to a three or four seed in the NCAA Tournament. Our bet is that Duke comes out breathing fire after a couple of highly reflective days of practice following the game against Wake Forest. The atmosphere will be enough to provide the team a spark, and the Blue Devils have enough to get by North Carolina. Look for Duke to take an early lead and for Paige to keep his team within striking distance. North Carolina will win the battle of the boards, and it'll be close, but Duke will win a close game down the stretch.

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