Previewing Duke

For the second year in a row, and the fourth time in the last seven years, the ACC title will be determined by the UNC-Duke regular season finale. Saturday's game tips off at 7 p.m. at Cameron Indoor Stadium on ESPN.

North Carolina (26-4, 13-2) vs. Duke (26-4, 13-2)
Durham, N.C. -- Cameron Indoor Stadium
7 p.m. -- ESPN (Dan Shulman, Dick Vitale, Jay Bilas)


"People have graded our performances all year instead of grading our record. People want to nitpick -- `You didn't play well for these 4 minutes,' and `You only won by this' and something -- instead of saying, `They've done a good job, man. They've done a great job.'" – Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski following Tuesday's win over Wake Forest

"We don't have one kid who's started every game. You know, we've had nine different players start games. And we've had our toughest schedule. This has been a really tough schedule in a long year because it started with the summer tour. So you have a chance for a team to run out of gas or get tired mentally and physically, and different guys have had to emerge and become consistent." – Krzyzewski on the difficulty of the season


Since the Last Meeting: No. 4 Duke enters Saturday's contest with a 26-4 (13-2 ACC) record. The Blue Devils have won seven straight games, a streak that began with their victory over North Carolina on Feb. 8. Four of Duke's last five games have been decided by eight points or less, including a 70-65 overtime win over Virginia Tech last Saturday.

Rivers Plugging Along: Through his first 14 games of the season, Austin Rivers averaged 15.1 points on 44.2 percent shooting to go along with 2.6 rebounds. The rookie guard has slightly improved those numbers to 15.7 points on 44.8 percent shooting and 3.9 rebounds in 15 ACC games, but those statistics are even better over his 13 outings (17.2 ppg, 4.3 rpg). That consistency and level of play has allowed him to earn ACC Rookie of the Week honors eight times this season. Rivers had his best game of the season in the first meeting between these teams, scoring 29 points on 9-of-16 shooting, including a 6-of-10 effort from long range.

Productive Behind the Arc: Duke leads the ACC in both 3-point field goal percentage (.390) and made 3-pointers (252), thanks in large part to a quartet of players with an ability to knock down the long ball. Four different Blue Devils – Andre Dawkins (66), Seth Curry (53), Rivers (52) and Kelly (40) – have made at least 40 3-pointers this season. Even more impressive is the fact that all four players are shooting above 39 percent from 3-point range. Duke has connected on eight or more 3-pointers in eight of its last nine games and attempted a season-high 36 treys in the last meeting with North Carolina.

Defensive Concerns Linger: Credit Krzyzewski with his team's 26-4 record despite a defense that has not lived up to typical Duke standards. The Blue Devils rank 10th in the ACC (184th nationally) in field goal percentage defense (43.3) and seventh in the league in both blocked shots (4.1) and steals (6.2). Teams can sometimes use its rebounding to cover up for defensive inefficiencies by limiting second-chance points, but Duke hasn't been overwhelming in that regard, either, ranking sixth in the ACC with a plus-3.5 margin.

Feasting on the Heels: Seth Curry is averaging 13.6 points on the season for the Blue Devils, but the junior guard has found a rhythm against the Tar Heels that's allowed him to become an even larger scoring threat. The Charlotte, N.C. native is averaging 17.0 points in four career games against UNC, including a pair of 20-point efforts.

Brothers Doing Work on the Boards: Junior forward Mason Plumlee (10.8 ppg, 9.4 rpg) has worked his way onto some All-ACC ballots with his consistent play this season, but the emergence of his brother Miles in the latter stages of his senior year have provided Duke with a solid rebounding tandem. While Mason ranks second in the ACC in rebounds, Miles has averaged 12.0 boards over his last six games. One of the brothers has led the team in rebounding in 28 of 30 games this season.

Random Fact of the Day: Duke has converted four 4-point plays this season.

Last Meeting: No. 9 Duke defeated No. 5 North Carolina, 85-84, at the Smith Center on Feb. 9. UNC led 82-72 with 2:38 to play, but the Blue Devils closed the game on a 13-2 run that ended with Rivers' buzzer beating 3-pointer over Tyler Zeller from the right wing. Harrison Barnes led the Tar Heels with 25 points and Zeller added 23 points and 11 rebounds.

Series History: North Carolina leads the all-time series with Duke, 131-102. UNC has won four of the last six games in the series at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

Projected Starters:
0 Austin Rivers (6-4, 200, Fr.) - 15.3 ppg, 2.1 apg
30 Seth Curry (6-2, 180, Jr.) - 13.6 ppg, 2.4 apg
20 Andre Dawkins (6-4, 200, Jr.) - 9.3 ppg, 2.1 rpg
34 Ryan Kelly (6-11, 230, Jr.) - 12.2 ppg, 5.5 rpg
5 Mason Plumlee (6-10, 235, Jr.) - 10.8 ppg, 9.4 rpg

Top Reserves:
21 Miles Plumlee (6-10, 245, Sr.) - 6.5 ppg, 7.0 rpg
2 Quinn Cook (6-0, 175, Fr.) - 4.3 ppg, 2.0 apg
3 Tyler Thornton (6-1, 195, So.) - 3.4 ppg, 1.9 apg
15 Josh Hairston (6-7, 235, So.) - 2.6 ppg, 1.4 rpg

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(Photos by US Presswire)

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