North Carolina (21-4, 10-2 ACC) vs. Duke (19-6, 8-4 ACC)
Chapel Hill, N.C. – Dean E. Smith Center
Wednesday, 9 p.m.
ESPN (Dan Shulman, Jay Bilas, Shannon Spake)
ACC Network (Tim Brando, Mike Gminski)
“They’re more experienced and more talented and deeper than we are. To me, they’re the best team. It will take a heck of an effort, but our guys are giving a heck of an effort.” – Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski
“Us guards have to collapse down, find a body to block out, and get those loose ball rebounds that bounce around.” – Duke guard Grayson Allen
“They put a great deal of pressure on you by driving the ball, so you’ve got to make decisions. ‘Okay, do I help all of the way in off this guy because my guy that I’m guarding is not a great 3-point shooter?’ Well, that’s tough because most of their guys are pretty doggone good 3-point shooters. So you’ve got to do a little bit of both. You’ve got to put a lot of pressure on every individual that’s guarding their man to do a good job themselves so you don’t need as much help. Hopefully, if that one person can handle his guy a heck of a lot better than any other game we’ve played all year, that will help us a great deal.” – UNC head coach Roy Williams
Season to Date: Duke enters Wednesday’s contest with a 19-6 (8-4 ACC) record. The Blue Devils won 14 of their first 16 games to open the season before taking a detour with four losses in five games early in ACC play. Krzyzewski’s squad has since recovered, winning four in a row, including upsets over Louisville and Virginia at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
Allen Pacing Devils: Sophomore Grayson Allen has been sensational for Duke this season, leading the team in scoring (20.6 ppg), assists (3.7) and 3-point shooting (42.5 percent). Allen’s game is tough for any small forward in the country to guard, as the 6-foot-5 wing possesses strong athleticism, is capable of penetrating through contact, and can bury jumpers from virtually anywhere inside the halfcourt line. His height presents a challenge for UNC’s three best perimeter defenders (Marcus Paige, Joel Berry and Nate Britt-- all of whom are 6-2 or under) to guard, and his willingness to draw contact early and often presents problems for UNC’s limited depth at small forward. On top of all of this, Allen comes into Wednesday’s game with momentum after draining a game-winning buzzer-beater against Virginia on Saturday.
Rookie Standout: Freshman wing Brandon Ingram is hitting his stride at the perfect time for the Blue Devils down the stretch in conference play. The Kinston, N.C. native is averaging 19.1 points per game over his last 6 contests on 45.8 percent shooting from the field. Most recently, Ingram played arguably his best game in a Duke uniform against Virginia, dropping 25 points on the Cavaliers on 10-of-22 shooting, including 4-of-9 from 3-point range. In a critical stretch of that game, Ingram scored 18 straight points for Duke, further proving his capability of taking a game over. Like Allen, Ingram will be a tall order for UNC to guard in man-to-man defense. His 6-foot-9 frame and Inspector Gadget-like length makes him a difficult matchup for UNC on the offensive end. Factor in the recruiting battle between UNC and Duke for his services, and Ingram represents the most intriguing storyline entering Wednesday’s showdown.
Reliance on the 3-Ball: With Duke having no true dominant post player like it had in Jahlil Okafor last season, the Blue Devils have returned to living and dying by the 3-pointer. Duke is second in the ACC in 3-point attempts with 23 tries per game and 3-point percentage at a clip of 39.2 percent. Consider this: 38.9 percent of Duke’s field goal attempts this season are from beyond the arc. Further complicating this area of concern for UNC is its 36.8 3-point field goal percentage defense mark, good for 12th in the ACC.
Take the Over: The Carolina-Duke rivalry has built its reputation on consistently exciting games, and if you like offense, Wednesday’s game should live up to its billing. Duke enters the matchup with the second-most efficient offense in the nation, according to KenPom.com, averaging 121.9 points per 100 possessions. North Carolina comes in just four spots behind at sixth with 118.9 points per 100 possessions. These are the top two scoring offenses in the ACC, with UNC edging Duke out in points per game, 83.8-83.4. Both teams are ranked in the top-15 of scoring offenses in the nation. These numbers, the awkward defensive matchups both teams must deal with and the contrasting styles of the offenses should make for an explosively entertaining affair.
Last Meeting: The Blue Devils rallied from a seven-point deficit to defeat the Tar Heels, 84-77, at the Smith Center on March 7, 2015. Duke shot 58.6 percent in the second half after missing 18 of its final 19 field goal attempts before halftime. Marcus Paige led UNC with 23 points, while Brice Johnson added 17 points and seven rebounds.
Series History: UNC leads the all-time series, 133-107. Duke has won 10 of the last 13 meetings.
3 Grayson Allen (6-5, 205, So.) – 20.8 ppg, 4.6 rpg
14 Brandon Ingram (6-9, 190, Fr.) - 16.9 ppg, 6.7 rpg
13 Matt Jones (6-5, 200, Jr.) - 11.6 ppg, 2.8 rpg
12 Derryck Thornton (6-2, 175, Fr.) - 8.3 ppg, 2.7 apg
40 Marshall Plumlee (7-0, 250, Gr.) - 8.2 ppg, 8.3 rpg
5 Luke Kennard (6-5, 180, Fr.) – 12.5 ppg, 3.5 rpg