Preview: Duke (19-1) v. North Carolina (21-1)

Previewing the Blue Devils and Tar Heels, who tip off on Wednesday night in Chapel Hill in round one of the conference's marquee match-up. The game will be nationally televised by ESPN beginning at 9:00 PM EST.


Duke (19-1, 7-0) vs North Carolina (21-1, 6-1)
Chapel Hill, N.C. - Dean E. Smith Center
TV: ESPN / Tip: 9:00 PM ESPN

Program Vitals
Conference: Atlantic Coast
Nickname: Tar Heels
Colors: Sky Blue & White
Head Coach: Roy Williams (5th year)
Career Record at North Carolina: 127-31 (545-132 Overall)

Projected Starters:
 5 Ty Lawson (5-11, 195, So.) – 13.6 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 5.5 apg
22 Wayne Ellington (6-4, 200, So.) – 16.2 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 40% 3pt
50 Tyler Hansbrough (6-9, 250, Jr.) – 21.8 ppg, 10.4 rpg
21 Deon Thompson (6-8, 240, So.) – 9.3 ppg, 5.5 rpg
 1 Marcus Ginyard (6-5, 218, Jr.) – 7.1 ppg, 4.5 rpg

Key Reserves:
14 Danny Green (6-6, 210, Jr.) – 12.1 ppg, 5.1 rpg
32 Alex Stepheson (6-9, 235, So.) – 4.2 ppg, 5.0 rpg
11 Quentin Thomas (6-3, 195, Sr.) – 2.1 ppg, 2.2 apg
13 William Graves (6-6, 245, Fr.) - 1.9 ppg

Storylines:

How They Got Here:
Picked to finish second to the Tar Heels in the preseason poll, the Blue Devils continue to exceed those expectations by rolling to a 7-0 conference records and a No. 2 national ranking in the latest AP and ESPN Coaches' polls. In conference play Duke has earned those seven victories by an average of 15.6 points per game - the smallest margin of victory coming in a 93-84 win at Maryland.

North Carolina as also lived up to the preseason hype by rolling to a 21-1 overall record and having already spent several weeks ranked as the nation's top team. However, a home loss to Maryland has separated the Heels from both the top perch for the conference and national rankings. In their seven games, the Tar Heels have enjoyed a 13.3 scoring differential including a 31 point beat down of rival NC State.

Series History:
The Blue Devils and Tar Heels have played 223 times to date, with the Tar Heels holding a convincing 127-96 all time season in the series. In games played at the Dean E. Smith Center, Duke holds a 9-13 overall record. Prior to March of 2005, Duke had won 10 of the series' last 11 contests. However, with a 75-73 victory over the Blue Devils on March 6, 2005, North Carolina turned the tide and has now won four of the last five games between the two including the last three.

Injury Report:
Duke center Brian Zoubek will not play against the Tar Heels. The 7'1 sophomore is scheduled for more tests on Wednesday, and no there is currently not reliable timetable for his return. For North Carolina, starting point guard Ty Lawson sprained his ankle against Florida State and is listed as questionable. Meanwhile, junior wing Marcus Ginyard is expected to play despite an toe injury.

Balanced Scoring Fuels Tar Heels:
While big man Tyler Hansbrough gets most of the press, the Tar Heels haven't won six of their seven conference games solely on the shoulders of reigning ACC Player of the Year. Through their victory over Florida State on Sunday, North Carolina has five players averaging 10.4 points or more per game in league contests. Hansbrough leads the way with 20.6 points per contest, joining Ellington (14.9), Lawson (14.1), Thompson (11.4), and Green (10.4). Other notable scorers include Ginyard at 7.3, and Stepheson at 6.0 per game. With so many scoring options, the Tar Heels are averaging a league high 88.4 points per game in the ACC, while surrendering 76.9

Sixth Men Would Be Starters:
At any other school in the conference, Duke sophomore Jon Scheyer North Carolina junior Danny Green would most certainly be at the top of the rotation. In Durham and Chapel Hill, however, each player has accepted a new role of sixth man. The result has been each team's instant offense when making the first substitution. For the Heels, Green has logged 10.4 points, 5.9 rebounds, and 1.6 blocks per game in ACC play. Scheyer has been equally good for his team this year - hitting for 10.5 points and 4.1 rebounds per game while shooting 41.8% from the perimeter.

Two Team Leaders Battling For ACC Honors:
Though there is little doubt that Hansbrough will end the season with the hardware due to his pre-season nod and terrific play to date, a strong argument can be made for Duke senior DeMarcus Nelson who is averaging 18.1 points and 2.3 steals while shooting 54% from the field in league contests - all within the top 10. However, Hansbrough's numbers are probably too much to overcome for the Duke senior - the 6'9 junior is second in the ACC in scoring (20.6), first in rebounding (12.4), and seventh in free throw shooting (84%) in league games. Oddly enough, however, Hansbrough is not in the top 10 in field goal percentage though Duke has both Nelson and Gerald Henderson in the top ten.

Size and Speed vs. Speed and Defense
A look at the rosters indicates that both teams love to play an up-tempo style. The teams ranks first and second in the ACC in scoring with UNC scoring a league best 88.4, while Duke averages 86.3 a night. On paper it seems the Tar Heels have the advantage in the middle with Hansbrough and Deon Thompson. Add in Alex Stepheson and Danny Green - both accomplished rebounders - and it's easy to see why the Tar Heels lead the conference in rebounding margin (+11.9), offensive rebounding (17.4), defensive rebounds (28.9) - while also leading the conference in free throw shooting at 81.3%.

Duke counters with a team built to run and play suffocating defense. Scoring has come easily this season with the Blue Devils ranking second in the conference, but the defensive end is what has fueled Duke's unexpected ACC dominance. Coach K's team leads the conference in scoring defense (70.7); scoring margin (+15.6); field goal percentage (48.6%); steals (10.3); and turnover margin (+6.14).

Coach K continues assault on wins list
Duke's victory over Miami was Krzyzewski's 794th, good enough for sixth on the all-time list. Eddie Sutton is fifth overall and second among active coaches with 800 wins while first overall is Coach K's recently retired college coach, Bob Knight, with 902 wins. Coach K now has 721 wins at Duke, tied for seventh all-time for most wins at one school and third among active coaches. With 794 career wins in his first 33 seasons, Coach K is currently second on the NCAA's list of most victories in a coaches' first 33 season. He trails Dean Smith, who had 802 wins through 33 seasons.

Prediction:

Duke 79
North Carolina 83


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