Previewing Duke

North Carolina and Duke renew the top rivalry in college basketball on Wednesday, but this time the Tar Heels head to Durham as steep underdogs. Tip-off at Cameron Indoor Stadium is set for 9 p.m. on ESPN/ACCN.

North Carolina (16-7, 6-4) vs. Duke (21-2, 8-2)
Durham, N.C. -- Cameron Indoor Stadium
Wednesday, 9:00 p.m.
ESPN (Dan Shulman, Jay Bilas, Dick Vitale) ACC Network (Tim Brando, Mike Gminski)


"They are one of the best offensive rebounding teams and transition teams in the country. Those are two areas that we have been good, obviously, or we wouldn't have the record we have, but we are not that good. And the two areas that we are a little bit weak are defensive rebounding and transition, and those are their two strengths. So we have got to get fresh and we have got to be able to do a good job in those areas." – Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski


Season to Date: Duke enters Wednesday night's contest with a 21-2 (8-2 ACC) record. The Blue Devils won their first 15 games of the season – including victories over Kentucky, Minnesota, Ohio State and Temple – before dropping their first loss at N.C. State on Jan. 12. Two games later, Miami blew out Duke by 27 in Coral Gables. Since then, however, Krzyzewski's squad has won five straight. The Blue Devils join the Hurricanes as the only two teams in the country to rank in the top five in both polls, the RPI and SOS rankings.

National POW: Senior forward Mason Plumlee earned the USBWA honor on Monday after averaging 24.5 points, 9.5 rebounds and 2.0 blocks in a pair of wins over N.C. State and Boston College. The 6-foot-10, 235-pounder is second in the ACC in scoring (18.2), rebounding (10.7) and field goal percentage (61.0). Plumlee has scored 30 points or more in two of his last four games and has three games with 20-plus points and 15-rebounds on the season.

Hot Vs. Heels: Senior guard Seth Curry provides the primary perimeter scoring option to balance Plumlee's play in the post. Despite suffering from right shin pain that limits him in practice, the 6-foo-2, 185-pound sharpshooter has increased his point production in ACC play (17.5) as well as his 3-point field goal percentage (43.1 on 31-of-72 shooting). What's most troubling for North Carolina, however, is Curry's success in this rivalry. He's averaging 16.0 points in five career games against UNC, while knocking down a staggering 52.9 percent of his treys (18-of-34).

Nets on Fire: Curry's not the only Blue Devil with a knack for connecting from deep. Fellow backcourt starters Quinn Cook (42.2 percent; 38-of-90) and Rasheed Sulaimon (40.4 percent; 36-of-89) are also topping the 40 percent mark. Duke leads the ACC in 3-point field goal percentage and ranks sixth nationally with its 40.9 mark.

Masking Defensive Woes: Duke ranks ninth in ACC play in field goal percentage defense (44.7), but has been able to mitigate those issues by limiting its opponents' success from 3-point range (30.7 percent; 4th ACC), as well as boasting the league's best turnover margin (plus-3.7) in ACC games.

Kelly Still Out: Senior forward Ryan Kelly played a pivotal role in Duke's 15-game winning streak to open the season before suffering a foot injury against Clemson on Jan. 8. The Raleigh, N.C. native provides matchup problems due to his size (6-11, 230 pounds) and his ability to shoot from outside (52.1 percent from 3). He's averaging 13.4 points and 5.4 rebounds. Krzyzewski told reporters last week that there is no timetable on Kelly's return.

Last Meeting: The Tar Heels defeated the Blue Devils, 88-70, at Cameron Indoor Stadium on Mar. 3, 2012. Three different players posted double-doubles – Kendall Marshall (20 points, 10 assists), Tyler Zeller (19 points, 10 rebounds) and John Henson (13 points, 10 rebounds) – as UNC scored its biggest win at Duke since a 91-71 win in 1989.

Series History: North Carolina leads the all-time series with Duke, 132-102. The Blue Devils have won five of the last seven meetings and hold a 40-35 edge at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

Projected Starters:
2 Quinn Cook (6-1, 175, So.) - 11.8 ppg, 6.0 apg
14 Rasheed Sulaimon (6-4, 185, Fr.) - 11.4 ppg, 3.4 rpg
30 Seth Curry (6-2, 185, Sr.) - 16.8 ppg, 2.2 rpg
21 Amile Jefferson (6-8, 195, Fr.) - 4.6 ppg, 3.2 rpg
5 Mason Plumlee (6-10, 235, Sr.) - 18.2 ppg, 10.7 rpg

Top Reserves:
3 Tyler Thornton (6-1, 190, Jr.) - 3.3 ppg, 2.6 apg
15 Josh Hairston (6-7, 240, Jr.) - 2.2 ppg, 2.1 rpg

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(Photos by USA Today Sports)

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