UNC vs Duke: Preview, broadcast information, and prediction

CHAPEL HILL, NC - FEBRUARY 03: The North Carolina Tar Heels bench watches a three-point attempt by Cameron Johnson
CHAPEL HILL, NC - FEBRUARY 03: The North Carolina Tar Heels bench watches a three-point attempt by Cameron Johnson /

The latest chapter in college basketball’s greatest rivalry will take place when UNC hosts Duke this Thursday

It’s that time of year again.

The Duke Blue Devils will make the short trip down Tobacco Road to take on the North Carolina Tar Heels this Thursday in the Dean E. Smith Center.

Even though this matchup always is, this will be a huge game for both teams. UNC is looking to build off some recent momentum after throttling Pitt this past Saturday, while Duke will aim to rebound from a disappointing loss to Saint John’s.

This year’s matchup will be particularly interesting, as the traditional play styles of the two blue bloods have almost flipped.

Due to personnel, the 2017 Tar Heels run a small-ball starting lineup and almost rely on the three-point shot. Thanks to two one-and-done stars in Wendell Carter and Marvin Bagley Jr, Duke gets the ball inside more than usual and has dominated the boards.

No matter the switch in styles, the latest chapter in the Tobacco Road rivalry should be as intense as ever.

One Duke player to watch…

While Marvin Bagley has gotten most of the media attention, Wendell Carter has put together an outstanding freshman season in Durham.

The 6-foot-10 forward is averaging 14.4 points and 9.6 rebounds per game. Bagely and Carter combined will be an absolute nightmare inside for the Tar Heels.

Even if they are able to contain the former, a huge game from Carter would potentially be too much for Carolina to overcome.

One UNC player to watch…

After going through some major struggles earlier in the year, freshman forward Garrison Brooks has put together a quality string of games as of late.

Coming off the bench, the 6-foot-9 Brooks has averaged 6.6 points per game and provided some great defense over the last few games. In order to contain Bagley and Carter, the Tar Heels will need Brooks to continue to produce.

Roy Williams may even opt to start him due to the matchup. If the Brooks we have been seeing lately shows up, look for Carolina to send the Blue Devils back home in disappointment.

Key to the game…

As simple as it sounds, UNC just needs to make shots.

Duke has the size advantage inside, so Carolina needs to make up for it by having a great shooting night. When UNC has looked its best this season (Wins over Ohio State, Tennessee, Arkansas, Clemson) they shot well as a team, especially from behind the arc.

Joel Berry, Cameron Johnson, Luke Maye, Kenny Williams, and all the rest will need to hit shots Thursday night in order for the good guys to come out on top.

As Roy Williams always says, everything looks better when the ball goes in the basket.

Last Meeting…

UNC and Duke have not yet faced off this season, but the last time they met was in the 2017 ACC Tournament semifinal.

Carolina was in complete control of the game, but a crucial fourth foul given to point guard Joel Berry turned the tide of the game, allowing Duke to steal one from the Heels, on their way to the ACC Tournament championship.

This was merely consolation for the Blue Devils, of course, as they went on to get bounced in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, and were forced to watch the Tar Heels cut down the nets in Phoenix.

What you need to know…

What? UNC (17-7) (6-5) versus Duke (19-4) (7-3)
When? Thursday, February 8th at 8:00 PM
Where? Dean E. Smith Center, Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Radio? Tar Heels Sports Network
Prediction? UNC 85, Duke 82