(Photo via bleacherreport.com)
The North Carolina – Duke rivalry is one of the biggest in all of sports. When thinking about this rivalry, you put it in the same category as Celtics – Lakers and Red Sox – Yankees, among many others. 10 national championships, 34 final four appearances, 36 ACC tournament championships and 48 ACC regular season championships are what these two prolific Universities combine for. These are phenomenal stats that just merely begin to describe these schools, but don’t get caught up in the numbers too much because nothing will be close about this game.
Duke is on a three game winning streak over the Tarheels, but make no mistake, this veteran savvy UNC team is going to be ready to dish out the punishment come game time. The Blue Devils (19-6) are having a down year by most people’s standards, coming into the game ranked 20th in the nation, while the Tarheels (21-4) come in ranked 5th after handily taking care of Pittsburgh on Sunday. If Sunday was any indication of what is to come, look out. Marcus Paige went through a shooting slump through the latter parts of January, but has started to heat up at just the right time. In the last three games, Paige is shooting 55% from three point range, which is what UNC fans have been used to seeing in his time at Carolina. Add that to the fact that Brice Johnson has become a consistent force down low this year, averaging 16 ppg and 10 rpg, the Tarheels clearly have the advantage.
The Tarheels will look to bully the Blue Devils down low with their size and depth. Carolina is averaging 41.2 ppg in the paint, which leads the nation, while Duke is giving up 36.1 ppg in the paint, which is 3rd worst in the nation. This just goes to show that the Tarheels strengths vastly outweigh the Blue Devils, while the Devils weaknesses are in the area where they can ill afford to make mistakes against this dangerous UNC team. As a favorite to win the national championship this year, there is no way that the Tarheels will miss this chance to show that they are the perennial power that they are at home, where they have played their best all year long. That is why I am not only hoping for, but also predicting a North Carolina win come Wednesday night.
– B. Braswell