Jan 26, 2014; Chapel Hill, NC, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels bench reacts in the second half. North Carolina Tar Heels defeated the Clemson Tigers 80-61 at Dean E. Smith Student Activities Center. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

UNC Basketball: The importance of defeating the Duke Blue Devils

Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

On Wednesday night, the red-hot North Carolina Tar Heels will host the #9 ranked Duke Blue Devils in the first of their two annual meetings. This is easily college basketball’s best rivalry, but this game has other implications too. The Tar Heels could use another signature win as they try to solidify their spot in the NCAA tournament, so Carolina must remember this game means more than just beating your arch enemy.

Don’t look now but UNC is on a five game winning streak so it’s a great time to play Duke, especially in the Dean Smith Center. Roy’s boys are playing good defense, playing with passion and it’s a good thing because the Tar Heels were on the verge of an ugly season. During this five game winning streak, Carolina has won every game by double figures but this game by far will be their toughest challenge. The hated Blue Devils are playing good ball as well so the Tar Heels will need one of its stronger performances of the year, in order to get the win.

If Carolina is indeed victorious, they will virtually lock up a bid for the NCAA tournament (barring a collapse down the stretch) and they would be in great position to grab one of those top four seeds in the ACC tournament, which in return gets you a first round bye. I believe this team is confident that they can beat anyone in the country but laying the smack down on Duke, would give this squad its swag back and UNC becomes the team nobody wants to play.

Winning this game would also restore the home court advantage in the Dean Dome. The Tar Heels have already dropped three games in the museum known as the Smith Center, so a victory against the highly ranked Blue Devils would send a strong message to the league – that coming to Chapel Hill is still a losing proposition.

Bottom line, Carolina has to win this game. It’s not a make or break contest but a victory would pump up the fan base as well as give the players a major confidence boost going forward.

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Tags: Basketball Dean Smith Center Duke Blue Devils North Carolina Tar Heels

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