UNC Basketball vs Duke: Tar Heels look to complete sweep of Blue Devils

DURHAM, NORTH CAROLINA - FEBRUARY 20: (L-R) Head coach Mike Krzyzewski of the Duke Blue Devils talks to head coach Roy Williams of the North Carolina Tar Heels before their game at Cameron Indoor Stadium on February 20, 2019 in Durham, North Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
DURHAM, NORTH CAROLINA - FEBRUARY 20: (L-R) Head coach Mike Krzyzewski of the Duke Blue Devils talks to head coach Roy Williams of the North Carolina Tar Heels before their game at Cameron Indoor Stadium on February 20, 2019 in Durham, North Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images) /

UNC basketball prepares for round 2 with Duke as if Zion Williamson will play

Saturday marks the second North Carolina-Duke matchup of the season, and there’s a fair amount at stake for both the Tar Heels and Blue Devils.

With a win, North Carolina would have no less than a share of the Atlantic Coast Conference regular season title, while Duke would need a win against the Tar Heels, and a Virginia loss in order to see a three-way tie for first.

And while that certainly has ACC Tournament seeding implications, a No. 1 seed for the NCAA Tournament also hangs somewhere in the balance. The teams’ overall records and resumes are similar this season, and a UNC sweep of Duke could put the Tar Heels in the driver’s seat for a top seed in the big dance.

The season finale also represents the last time that UNC seniors Luke Maye, Kenny Williams and Cameron Johnson will play at the Dean Smith Center, at least in any official capacity. Since arriving (Maye and Williams) on campus in the fall of 2015, North Carolina has a record of 116-30. They’ve been a part of two ACC regular season titles, two Final Fours and national championship victory in 2017; and they’re not done yet.

Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski claims that star freshman Zion Williamson is unlikely to play in the game, and won’t see the court again until the ACC Tournament next week. That certainly changes the game, as well as both teams’ approach, but it hasn’t stopped UNC head coach Roy Williams from preparing as if Williamson will play.

All of that, and we haven’t even discussed the pride and bragging rights aspect of the game on Saturday between the two bitter rivals. With so much on the line, it could be one for the ages.

Related Story. Where do the Tar Heels stand with Cole Anthony?. light

Keys to the game for Duke

If Zion Williamson doesn’t suit up for Duke, the Blue Devils will have to play better in his absence than they did the first game this season against North Carolina.

In that game, the Blue Devils shot less than 35 percent from the floor, 20 percent from three-point range, compiled fewer rebounds and assists, and committed more turnovers. They also lacked scoring from anyone not named R.J. Barrett or Cam Reddish.

Barrett scored a game-high 33 points, and Reddish added 27, but the next highest point total for the Blue Devils came from reserve forward Javin DeLauier, and he scored just six points. The rest of the team scored six points combined in the 16-point home loss to the Tar Heels.

If the Blue Devils are going to fall in love with the three-point shot in Williamson’s absence, they’ll need to hit more in this go-round with North Carolina. If they match their 8-for-39 mark of the first game, there is little opportunity for them to walk out of the Dean Smith Center with a win on Saturday night.

Related Story. Several recruits are expected in Chapel Hill this weekend. light

Keys to the game for North Carolina

The Tar Heels had the advantage of playing a Duke team without Zion Williamson in the first game, but it looks like that might be the case again on Saturday. If it is, North Carolina will be able to focus more on Barrett and Reddish, as they are really the only two consistent scoring threats that Duke boasts other than soon-to-be National Player of the Year Williamson.

Outside of forcing Barrett and Reddish into bad long-range shots, the Tar Heels will need to hit some of their own this game. In their first matchup of the season, North Carolina managed to win despite a 2-for-20 performance from beyond the arc. That was, in part, because of their 50 percent shooting effort from the floor that night. It also helped that they outrebounded the Blue Devils, took advantage of second-chance points, and took better care of the basketball.

Outside of big performances from Luke Maye and Cam Johnson, the Tar Heels’ offensive outpouring wasn’t much more diverse than that of the Blue Devils, though they did get a 14-point, eight-rebound game from Garrison Brooks.

Freshman guard Coby White had one of his worst shooting games of the season against Duke in February. If he takes over the game on Saturday, and puts together another one of his 30-point performances, the Tar Heels could be tough to beat.

Last meeting

Duke freshman and all-around ESPN favorite Zion Williamson went down with an injury in the first minute of teams’ first matchup of the season on February 20. That part is well documented. What hasn’t been talked about enough is what happened in the game’s next 39 minutes.

North Carolina senior forward Luke Maye scored 30 points and brought down 15 rebounds en route to an 88-72 Tar Heels’ victory at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Cameron Johnson scored 26, and Garrison Brooks added 14 points in a game that the Tar Heels controlled from start to finish.

With Williamson out of the game, Duke freshmen forwards R.J. Barrett and Cam Reddish scored 60 points combined, but no other Blue Devil player scored more than six points. Duke was outrebounded by five, dished out 11 fewer assists and turned the ball over five more times than the Tar Heels.

Next. Here's the latest on 5-star UNC target Isaiah Todd. dark

What you need to know

What? Duke 26-4 (14-3) vs. North Carolina 25-5 (15-2)
When? Saturday, March 9 – 6:00 p.m. EST
Where? Dean E. Smith Center – Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Radio? Tar Heel Sports Network
All-Time series? North Carolina leads series 138-111
Prediction? UNC 92, Duke 84