UNC Basketball vs Duke: Game info, preview and prediction

DURHAM, NC - MARCH 03: Wendell Carter Jr #34 of the Duke Blue Devils drives to the basket against Garrison Brooks #15 of the North Carolina Tar Heels during their game at Cameron Indoor Stadium on March 3, 2018 in Durham, North Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
DURHAM, NC - MARCH 03: Wendell Carter Jr #34 of the Duke Blue Devils drives to the basket against Garrison Brooks #15 of the North Carolina Tar Heels during their game at Cameron Indoor Stadium on March 3, 2018 in Durham, North Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images) /

The best rivalry in all of sports resumes its latest chapter on Wednesday as UNC basketball travels down Tobacco Road to visit Duke.

The North Carolina Tar Heels and Duke Blue Devils open a new chapter in their storied rivalry, resuming college basketball’s most talked about series this Wednesday in Durham.

A matchup of top-8 teams, with Duke taking over the No. 1 spot in the AP poll this week, this will be the 46th meeting all-time when both teams are ranked inside the top-10, with the total score of those matchups favoring Carolina 3,444 to 3,431 — a difference of just 13 points.

There is no need for introduction of the Duke freshmen since they have been plastered all over national television and social media throughout the entirety of the season.

Led by Zion Williamson (22.4 PPG, 9.2 RPG), Duke enters with just two losses on the season and currently sits at first in the ACC, one game ahead of Virginia.

Williamson is not only one of the best players in the last decade to step foot onto a college basketball court, but he’s the most efficient. With a player efficiency rating (PER) of 42.3, Williamson ranks first all-time since that stat has been kept, and also comes in at fifth this season in the NCAA in offensive rating (135.2).

Williamson’s counterpart is fellow freshman RJ Barrett, who’s having an outstanding season in his own right.

The 6-foot-7 guard averages 22.7 points per game, 7.4 rebounds and four assists on the season, and is coming off of a triple-double against N.C. State over the weekend. Though his numbers are great — especially for a freshman — his efficiency is nowhere near where he’d like for it to be, averaging 19 shot attempts per game, making them at a 44 percent clip.

Key to the game for UNC

Almost all things on offense for the Tar Heels start and end with Coby White.

The 6-foot-5 freshman guard is averaging 15.7 points per game while shooting 38 percent from three, and has improved to 17.7 points per game in ACC play.

His matchup with Duke guard Tre Jones will determine who comes out of Cameron Indoor Stadium with a win.

In previous matchups against top-level defensive guards this season, White has had mixed results, and it all has to do with the size of the guard opposite of him.

Against Kentucky, Ashton Hagans absolutely took White out of the game, thus making it difficult for North Carolina to get into half court sets, as well as get up the floor after made baskets. Picking up White full court, Hagans held the star freshman to eight points on 3-of-10 shooting and four turnovers.

However, against Michigan and Zavier Simpson, White faired better, finishing with 12 points on 5-of-10 shooting with four assists and just one turnover.

The main difference? The four inches of height that separate Hagans and Simpson.

With Tre Jones, while he is 6-foot-2, he isn’t nearly as long or quick as Hagans, which could benefit White in the open floor.

Besides the obvious “how can you slow down Zion Williamson” statement, the backcourt matchup of White and Jones will be crucial all night long.

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Key to the game for Duke

One name that has been almost forgotten about with the success of Williamson and Barrett is that of Cameron Reddish.

At 6-foot-8, Reddish (13.8 PPG) has been a major part of Duke’s recent success, averaging 16.8 points per game in the team’s last six games, compared to just 10 points per game in the 10 games prior.

A major reason why Reddish’s scoring has increased in that stretch is his improved shooting. Though he is still not making shots at the rate they need him to be at, he is up to 37 percent over his last six games, a 16 percent increase from the 10 previous games.

With a team that is only shooting 31.3 percent from three-point range this season — ranked 311th in the country — his ability to become the consistent shooter like he was known for in high school is a major key for Duke’s ability to win games by opening up driving lanes for the likes of Williamson and Barrett.

With North Carolina’s defense always a welcomed sight for three-point shooters who are in a slump or lacking confidence, their shading and double-teaming of Zion Williamson will surely give Reddish many open looks, but it’s just a matter of if he will be the 37 percent shooter of the last six games, or the 21 percent shooter of the 10 previous.

Last Meeting

Meeting three times last season, the last being in the ACC Tournament, the Tar Heels took the series 2-1 with a 74-69 victory in the ACC Semifinals.

Duke returns only four players who saw action in the last game, none of which played more than 10 minutes.

For the Tar Heels, they had a balanced attack with five players in double-figures, led by Luke Maye with 17 points and 10 rebounds. Kenny Williams chipped in 10 points with six rebounds and six assists.

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What you need to know

What? UNC 20-5 (10-2) vs Duke 23-2 (11-1)
When? Wednesday, February 20, at 9:00 PM EST
Where? Cameron Indoor Stadium – Durham, North Carolina
Radio? Tar Heel Sports Network
All-Time Series? UNC leads series 96-83
Prediction? Duke 84, UNC 78