Writer: Andrew Martin
It’s now February, football is over, and basketball is coming to the forefront of sports. With that, comes one of the most competitive basketball games of the year. Thursday night, Duke vs. UNC, The Tobacco Road Rivalry. Duke vs. UNC really is, an electric factory whether you’ve been to one of these games, or simply watched one on TV. No matter if the game is at the Dean Dome, or Cameron Indoor, this rivalry produces a truly incredible atmosphere.
Coming into this years first matchup, and looking at each teams numbers, surprisingly, both teams have very similar statistics. Both teams come in averaging 43 RPG, 18 APG, and Duke is giving up an average of 72.4 PPG compared to UNC’s 72.8. In a game like this high stake rivalry each team will have to execute key components to win this game.
UNC’s Keys to the Game
UNC comes into the Dean Dome Thursday with a disappointing 17-7 record, dropping three of their last four in ACC play.
Although, the Heels won the title just a year ago, they are a much different team this year. The loss of Justin Jackson has forced not only Joel Berry, but former role player Luke Maye to step up offensively. While Maye might be a great player, to have a guy who formerly was just a role player need to step up and be the team’s leading scorer is a tough situation. However, Maye and Berry have been the main reason for success in Chapel Hill this year, Berry averaging 17.3 PPG, and Maye just ahead of him with 18.3 PPG. Scoring may be the biggest key to a UNC win this week, both Duke, and Carolina have very similar team statistics. One main difference is Duke averages 90 PPG, eight more than UNC’s 83, and UNC’s 307 TO’s on the year.
Another major aspect of this game will be if UNC can stop quick spurts of offense from Duke. Multiple times this year we’ve seen Duke down big in the second half of a game. All of a sudden, they go on a 12-0 run and are right back in it. However, the most important key to the game for UNC is in fact UNC.
This is a rivalry game, and they’re playing at home, the Heels HAVE to get the fans into the game immediately. If UNC can run an efficient offense from start to finish, while limiting Duke’s potentially fast offense, they can win this game.
- Limit turnovers
- Get Joel Berry and Luke Maye open three point looks
- Don’t give Duke second chance opportunities on offense
- Limit quick spurts of offense from Duke, and don’t let up with the lead
- Get the crowd into the game early
Duke’s Keys to the Game
Duke enters their biggest game of the year with a 19-4 record, after a very disappointing loss to St John’s in Madison Square Garden. Coming into this season, Duke looked like a clear favor to win the title, but heading into February, many are questioning whether or not they’re even a final four team.
For much of the season we’ve watched Freshman standout, Marvin Bagley III, carry much of the load for Duke, but now we’re seeing that’s not enough. If this Blue Devils team wants to reach their full potential this season and make a tournament run, a win in Chapel Hill would be great way to get momentum for that run. However, in order to win in Chapel Hill, they absolutely have to dominate the boards. Duke comes into this game third in the nation at offensive rebounding, getting 12.8 a game.
Other things they need to do include: forcing turnovers and converting in transition, play intense defense the entire game, feed the posts, and try getting Grayson Allen and Gary Trent Jr. going early. However, Duke’s toughest task Thursday may just be themselves, throughout the year we’ve seen the Blue Devils play without energy, and lose when they do. In their recent loss to St John’s, Coach K mentioned that their attitude is currently unacceptable. If Coach K can install that energy in his team, there’s no reason Duke can’t win their second straight against the Heels.
- Dominate the glass on both ends of the floor
- Force turnovers
- Play a strong zone defense, and protect the 3-point line
- Keep the freshmen calm in the Dean Dome atmosphere
- Get Bagley and Carter enough touches in the post
- Get Allen and Trent’s shots going early
The Durango Herald
Every year the Tobacco Road Rivalry amazes us, everything from MJ’s late game heroics, to Austin Rivers at the buzzer makes it must watch TV. We head into Thursday nights matchup with UNC up in the series 135-110, but Duke has taken six of the last eight, including two out of three last year. Whether you have a dog in the fight or not, I encourage you to tune in at 7:00 as Duke makes the 9.8-mile journey down Tabaco Road to find out which blue is best.