Welcome to the greatest rivalry in college basketball, potentially, in all of sports. The Duke Blue Devils and the North Carolina Tarheels. Two schools separated by less then 10 miles on US Highway 15-501 aka Tabacco Road. This is one of the most storied rivalries in college basketball. Going back to 1920, the schools have played 142 times with a record of 134-108 in favor of North Carolina.
Tonight, Thursday February 9, 2017, the two teams tip it off at Cameron Indoor Stadium in Durham, North Carolina for meeting number 143. The Blue Devils and Tar Heels will meet twice over the last 6 games of this regular season, making each game that much more important. North Carolina won the last meeting 76-72 although Duke has owned the series recently with a record of 11-4 in the last 15. This rivalry has been as neck and neck as they come. Both teams have won five national championships, they have won on the others home court exactly 36 times, and Duke has won the ACC championship a record 19 times while UNC has won it 18. In fact, 40 years ago today, the record in the series was tied 48-48 with both teams scoring exactly 7,437 points.
While the two schools are so close in proximity, just 7 miles as the crow flies, they have many differences. Duke University, located in Durham, is a private school established in 1838. The campus spans over 8,000 acres and is filled with Gothic architecture. With 6,500 undergraduate students, the university is often listed amongst the most selective in the country and is also considered the seventh wealthiest university in America. In contrast, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is a public school and the flagship campus of the multi-university UNC system. Established in 1789, the school claims to be the oldest public university in America and the first institution of higher learning in North Carolina. The campus of only 829 acres has over 29,000 undergrad students.
Led by Coach Mike Krzyzewski has seen their fair share of struggles this year, ranked #18 Duke’s record is just 18-5. They play in Cameron Indoor Stadium, built in 1940, it holds upwards of 12,000 fans and has been voted as one of the toughest arenas to play. This year the team is led by guards, Greyson Allen(15.8) and Luke Kennard(19.8). The team also boasts some talented talented forwards in freshman Jason Tatum(15.8) and senior Amile Jefferson(12.0).
The team has struggled with personnel missing time this year. Amile Jefferson and Jason Tatum have missed games due to injury, Greyson Allen missed two games because of suspension, outstanding freshman recruit Harry Giles has only played 12 games due to injury, and Coach K missed 7 games after back surgery. During the time Coach K was out, the team went 4-3 and their statistics were staggering. While he was sidelined; Duke scored 6 points less per game, gave up 15 more points per game, and opponents’ field goal percentage was up 8%.
Coach K is back and the team appears the be the healthiest it’s been all year. Duke welcomes UNC to Cameron Indoor as a two point favorite for what looks to be a tight battle.
The Tarheels are led by Coach Roy Williams. After losing last years national championship game, UNC is ranked #8 in the nation and has 21 wins and just 4 losses. This is the 59th time in school history that the team has eclipsed 20 wins. Although they won last year at Cameron, Coach Williams is 11-16 against Duke. This years team is led by a trio of upperclassmen in guard Joel Berry III(14.9), and forwards Justin Jackson(18.6) and Kennedy Meeks(12.6).
The Heels are big, they significantly outsize Duke and are one of the best rebounding teams in the country. The also have the best point guard on the floor with Berry, although he’s struggled the past couple games, he shoots over 45% from the field. Rebounding, the size advantage, and Joel Berry’s play will be huge factors in tonight’s games. All three aspects need to go well if UNC hopes to go into Cameron and win.
Duke is tough to beat at home and it doesn’t happen very often, especially for North Carolina Coach Roy Williams. This is a tough ACC battle and both teams look to improve their conference records with the post season looming. As I mentioned, UNC has a size and rebounding advantage , but Duke has some guys who can shoot the heck out of the ball and the sixth man at Cameron Indoor is a crazy advantage. I predict a close Duke victory. Final Score: Duke 78 – North Carolina 75
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