Duke (25-5) vs North Carolina (26-3)
Chapel Hill, N.C. - Dean E. Smith Center
TV: CBS / Tip: 4:05 PM EST
Program Vitals Conference: ACC Nickname: Tar Heels Colors: Pastel Blue and White Head Coach: Roy Williams (6th season) Career Record at North Carolina: 163-35
Projected Starters: 5 Ty Lawson (5-11, 180, Jr.) – 16.0 ppg, 6.5 apg 22 Wayne Ellington (6-4, 200, Jr.) – 14.9 ppg, 4.9 rpg 50 Tyler Hansbrough (6-9, 250, Sr.) – 21.3 ppg, 8.1 rpg 21 Deon Thompson (6-8, 245, Jr.) – 11.1 ppg, 6.2 rpg 14 Danny Green (6-6, 215, Sr.) – 13.9 ppg, 4.7 rpg Key Reserves: 32 Ed Davis (6-10, 215, Fr.) – 6.3 ppg, 6.9 rpg 4 Bobby Frasor (6-3, 210, Sr.) – 2.6 ppg, 1.8 rpg 11 Larry Drew (6-1, 180, Fr.) – 1.6 ppg, 1.2 rpg 44 Tyler Zeller (7-0, 220, Fr.) - 5.3 ppg, 2.0 rpg
Storylines For North Carolina:
How They Got Here:
After a major lineup change in the middle of the season, the Blue Devils have won five straight games to keep themselves in position for a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament and controlling their own destiny when it comes to winning the ACC Regular Season Championship. The turn around has been credited to a more athletic and capable defensive team and the steady brilliance of junior Gerald Henderson.
Meanwhile the Tar Heels were supposed to cruise to an ACC Regular season, Tournament, and perhaps National Title this year. Clearly the deepest and most talented team on paper, head coach Roy Williams has seen his team look every bit of the machine the preseason hype promised while also seeing signs of, well, not. Still, North Carolina has won 12 of 13, and look to be on track towards achieving the first goal of winning the regular season title - albeit much later than most expected.
This will be the 227th overall meeting between the two programs. North Carolina holds a commanding 129-97 advantage in the series and have won six of the previous eight meetings.
Duke combo guard Nolan Smith is a game time decision after suffering a mild concussion against Maryland. Junior power forward Lance Thomas suffered an ankle sprain against Florida State, but practiced with the team on Saturday and is listed as probable. Big man Brian Zoubek suffered a broken nose against Florida State, but is expected to play. Meanwhile North Carolina floor general Ty Lawson suffered a foot injury, but is expected to be 100%.
A New Face; A Big Concern:
There is little doubt that the Blue Devils don't have the size or depth in the post to match up with the nation's elite big bodied teams. North Carolina controlled the paint in the first match-up with Hansbrough, Davis, and Thompson. Now the Duke coaching staff will have to deal with another talented big player as freshman Tyler Zeller has returned for North Carolina. Zeller, who started the first handful of games when Hansbrough was out, is a very quick big man who can run the floor and has an array of post moves.
Depth and Embarrassment of Riches:
North Carolina has eight McDonalds All-Americans on this year's roster - the most in the Roy Williams era and tied for the most in school history. Those players include Tyler Hansbrough, Bobby Frasor, Ty Lawson, Danny Green, Wayne Ellington, Larry Drew II, Ed Davis and Tyler Zeller. It's unusual to have so many upperclassmen that have played in the game, which points to North Carolina's success this season. Three times before the program has had eight Burger Boys on the roster - 1984, 1987, and 1994.
ACC Regular Season Championship On the Line:
The winner of Sunday's game will be crowned as the ACC's Regular Season Champion. The Tar Heels have claimed that honor twice in the last four seasons and are looking to make it three of five and the 17th time in school history. Should North Carolina come away with the victory over Duke, it would be the third straight season the Heels enter the ACC Tournament as the No. 1 seed. North Carolina has also shared the ACC Regular season championship 11 times.
The Difference Last Time: While many point to Hansbrough as North Carolina's main match up advantage, the truth is point guard Ty Lawson is the one many coaches worry about. Especially the Blue Devils. After running out to a double figure halftime lead in the first match-up, Duke simply had no answer for the speedy junior in the second half. Lawson scored 25 points and was quick enough to beat the initial defender and then get to the basket at will - well before the defense could rotate over and help. In auditioning for a second look by the NBA pre-draft workout process, Lawson has improved his jump shot (54% from the field and 47% from the perimeter) and is hitting over 80% of his free throw attempts. The Blue Devils will hand the responsibilities of trying to stay with Lawson to freshman sparkplug Elliot Williams who did a very good job on a similar player - Wake Forests' Jeff Teague - in his first elite matchup.
Senior Day For the Heels
North Carolina fans will be saying goodbye to several players on Sunday including the seniors. Notable rotational players Hansbrough, Danny Green, and Bobby Frasor will no doubt look to end their careers on a high note against their arch-rivals. In the first matchup it was Frasor who provided a much needed spark off the bench for North Carolina, while Green was his usual steady self - scoring 15 points, grabbing five rebounds, and using his length and athleticism to alter any number of shots. Then there's Hansbrough who has been the face of the program for the last four years and has been a thorn in Mike Krzyzewski's side throughout his career. Duke has seemingly figured out ways to contain him, but without a true post player on the roster, has never been able to stop him.
The signs all point to Duke being in trouble on Sunday afternoon. Last time North Carolina took the Blue Devils best shot, brushed themselves off and then ran wild on Duke in Cameron. A few weeks later and you have the Tar Heels even deeper in the post - making that advantage even larger - and you have their best players having the extra motivation of senior day, the potential of locking up the ACC's regular season title, top tournament seed, and being ranked at the top of the polls come Monday. Simply put, there is little chance for the Blue Devil team that got run in the first game to hope to win in Chapel Hill. But that's the point, this isn't the same Duke team. The lineup being employed by Coach K is must more athletic and more explosive. They force more turnovers. Of course Duke is also dealing with injuries to players that could certainly help maintain the defensive pressure at a consistent level in Smith and perhaps Thomas. In the end Duke is going to need to attack the basket, have their best rebounding game in a while, and the shots are going to have to fall from the perimeter. If and when the shots stop falling from the outside, Duke is going to need to prove they can manufacture offense in another way. If that doesn't happen, it's going to be a long afternoon.
North Carolina 87