UNC Basketball vs Duke: Game preview, info, prediction and more

DURHAM, NORTH CAROLINA - MARCH 07: Garrison Brooks #15 of the North Carolina Tar Heels drives against Jordan Goldwire #14 of the Duke Blue Devils during the first half of their game at Cameron Indoor Stadium on March 07, 2020 in Durham, North Carolina. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
DURHAM, NORTH CAROLINA - MARCH 07: Garrison Brooks #15 of the North Carolina Tar Heels drives against Jordan Goldwire #14 of the Duke Blue Devils during the first half of their game at Cameron Indoor Stadium on March 07, 2020 in Durham, North Carolina. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images) /

After a rather disappointing loss at Clemson on Tuesday night, Roy Williams and the UNC basketball program look to bounce back against rival Duke.

We’ve waited long enough. The greatest rivalry in college sports is set to be renewed on Saturday night in Durham.

Although the rivalry is still going strong, it hasn’t been your typical year for either program.

When the two teams take the floor on Saturday night, it will be the first time since February 27, 1960 that neither team was ranked for their annual matchup. In case you were wondering, the Tar Heels won that matchup 75-50 on the road.

The rankings don’t matter much in regards to this rivalry, but it does put into context just what kind of season it’s been so far for both sides.

North Carolina put together a stretch in which they won six of their first seven contest to begin the new year. From watching the Tar Heels during that stretch, it appeared as if Roy Williams’ team was finally on the right track.

However, the Tar Heels suffered a brutal loss against Clemson on Tuesday night. Overall, Williams’ squad had nine players commit 17 turnovers, and not one starter scored in double-figures. Heading into this big matchup, you have to have concerns as to which Tar Heels team will show up on Saturday night.

North Carolina has definitely had their fair share of struggles, but so have the Duke Blue Devils. Mike Krzyzewski’s team comes into this matchup having lost four of their last six games, including a 77-75 loss on the road against Miami on Monday night. The Blue Devils are currently 7-6 overall, and their 5-4 ACC record ranks them sixth in the conference.

Both teams are in need of a boost to help get them back on track. We’ll see if either one can gain some type of momentum from this upcoming rivalry matchup.

Key to Victory for UNC

Simply put, the Tar Heels need to play like the team that won six of seven games, not the team that showed up in Clemson on Tuesday night.

Offensive efficiency, poor free throw shooting and turnover problems have been season-long issues for this team. All of those factors were on display in Tuesday night’s contest.

The Tar Heels not only needs to protect the ball better, but must find some type of offensive rhythm. That offensive flow starts down low, where the team’s bigs need to be a factor in order for North Carolina to have any chance to win this game.

If the Tar Heels can score 75 or more points, there’s a good chance they will win the game. North Carolina is 7-3 this season when they score 75 or more points, opposed to just 4-3 when they fail to meet that mark.

Something to Watch for

Over the Tar Heels recent three-game winning streak (from January 20-January 26), Armando Bacot was the team’s top offensive performer. The sophomore big man averaged18.6 points-per-game (on 10.6 shots per contest) over that span.

Although he’s been highly efficient offensively, Bacot was a non-factor in the team’s loss on Tuesday night.

In 19 minutes played, Bacot attempted just one shot. It was his worst offensive performance of the season, as he recorded just one point and three rebounds while dealing with foul trouble throughout the second half.

The Tar Heels can not have a repeat of Tuesday night. They need to get their leading scorer involved offensively, especially early on in the game. Given the Tar Heels size advantage over the Blue Devils, Bacot should get plenty of opportunities down low.

Don’t be Surprised if..

Don’t be surprised if Garrison Brooks puts together yet another strong performance against the Blue Devils.

In two meetings against Duke last season, Brooks simply thrived. The Tar Heels big man averaged 22 points and 9 rebounds while shooting 52.9% from the floor.

Now, it’s very unlikely that Brooks will play 36+ minutes like he did in both contests last season. In fact, Brooks has not played over 35 minutes in a single game this season. His season-high came on Tuesday night against Clemson when he logged 34 minutes of floor time for Roy Williams’ squad.

However, even though he may not have the same workload as last year, Brooks could still thrive in this given matchup. As we mentioned earlier, North Carolina has a bit of a size advantage over Duke, so look for the Tar Heels to exploit this as much as possible on Saturday night.

Starting lineup

Over the last six games (dating back to January 12), Roy Williams has elected to use the same starting lineup.

It’s very likely that the same five will be used to start Saturday night’s contest against Duke:

G- Caleb Love -10.3 ppg, 2.6 rpg
G- Kerwin Walton- 6.6 ppg, 1.4 rpg
G/F- Leaky Black- 6.5 ppg, 5.8 rpg
F/C- Armando Bacot- 11.9 ppg, 7.5 rpg
F/C- Garrison Brooks- 10.5 ppg, 7.2 rpg

What you need to know

WHAT? North Carolina Tar Heels (11-6, 6-4 ACC) at Duke Blue Devils (7-6, 5-4 ACC)
WHEN? Saturday, February 6 @ 6:00 PM EST
WHERE? Cameron Indoor Stadium – Durham, North Carolina
RADIO? Tar Heels Sports Network
LAST MEETING? Duke defeated UNC 89-76 on 3/7/2020 in Durham. Garrison Brooks led all scorers with 26 points.
ALL-TIME SERIES? UNC leads 138-111

Next. What UNC Basketball's 2022 recruiting class could look like. dark

Check back with Keeping It Heel for complete coverage of Saturday’s contest and for everything UNC basketball.