UNC vs. Duke: Preview, game info, and prediction

CHAPEL HILL, NC - FEBRUARY 08: Theo Pinson /

The highly anticipated rematch between UNC and Duke is here. Will the Tar Heels complete the season sweep of their rival, or will the Blue Devils capture revenge?

It feels like just the other night that Theo Pinson threw his thunderous, game-sealing dunk to finish off arch-rival Duke. Now, it’s time yet again for the latest showdown in the greatest rivalry in sports.

This will be a huge game for both teams. On top of wanting to vanquish their hated rival, significant ACC tournament seeding implications loom for each squad.

With a win, UNC can secure the highly-coveted double-bye in the ACC tournament as the No. 2 seed next week.

With a loss, N.C. State could swoop in and steal the last double-bye spot from the Tar Heels. Duke is in a similar situation, with the double-bye not yet officially clinched.

There are other scenarios that can still play out, with UNC falling to even the No. 5 seed and out of a double-bye.

Both teams are coming off losses earlier in the week with the Blue Devils dropping a road game at Virginia Tech. The Tar Heels lost had Senior Night spoiled by a buzzer-beating three-pointer from Miami.

A win would have secured the double-bye, instead UNC enters the game uncertain of the seeding and needing a win.

One Duke player to watch…

Marvin Bagley III has been a dominant force all season. The soon to be lottery pick is a candidate for both the ACC and National Player of the Year, averaging 20.7 PPG and 11.1 RPG.

In the first matchup against UNC, Bagley tweaked his knee, mildly spraining it. The freshman was forced to miss the next four games to in order to recover from the sprain.

Although Theo Pinson did a great job of neutralizing him in the first Tobacco road duel on February 8th, Bagley still was able to dominate the first half, helping Duke get out to a big lead.

Whether or not Bagley is able to control the paint on Saturday night will determine who takes part two of the rivalry.

One UNC player to watch…

When Theo Pinson is playing his best basketball, UNC is extremely difficult to beat. That has been the case over the past month, and the only game the Tar Heels lost during that stretch was on a 30-foot prayer at the buzzer.

Pinson has done it all for UNC as of late; he has been a great distributor, a versatile defender, and is scoring at the highest rate of his career. The Greensboro native was arguably Carolina’s most valuable player in the month of February.

UNC will need THIS Theo Pinson on Saturday. His offensive contributions will be important, but his most vital task will be to contain Bagley. If the 6 foot-6 guard can repeat the defensive effort he provided in the first Duke game, UNC will likely be able to complete the season sweep of its hated rival.

Key to the game…

North Carolina’s defensive effort will determine the outcome of this one. Head Coach Roy Williams has reiterated it all season, and the numbers back it up: this is the worst defensive team he has ever coached at UNC.

However, when the Heels are able to defend well, they are as good as anyone in the country.

When Carolina stormed back from a double-digit deficit to beat Duke in the first matchup, they did it with elite defense, holding the Blue Devils to just 29 second half points.

If UNC brings its A-game on that side of the ball, expect the Tar Heels to complete the sweep, and for Grayson Allen’s senior night to be spoiled.

Last meeting…

As referenced many times already in this article, the North Carolina Tar Heels defeated Duke 82-78 in the Dean E. Smith Center on February 8th.

Duke led by as many as 12 points in the first half and even took a lead into halftime.

After looking overwhelmed in parts of the first half, Carolina dominated the last 20 minutes of the game, using great defense and timely three point shooting to send the Devils back to Durham with a big fat L.

What you need to know…

What? UNC 22-8 (11-6 ACC) at Duke 24-6 (12-5 ACC)
When? Saturday, March 3rd
Where? Cameron Indoor Stadium in Durham, North Carolina
Radio? Tar Heel Sports Network
All-Time series? UNC leads 136, 110
Prediction? UNC, 79, Duke 77