The first match up between the No. 20 Duke Blue Devils and the No. 5 North Carolina Tar Heels is only a few hours away. With both teams averaging 83 points per game, this classic ACC match up is sure to be a high scoring affair.
No. 20 Duke Blue Devils vs. No. 5 North Carolina Tar Heels
There are prolific players from both teams on the offensive end. For example, Duke comes into the game with four players averaging double figures, while all five starters reach double digits for the Tar Heels. Although the scoring numbers look similar, these teams do it in a variety of ways.
As a team, Duke shoots 39 percent from 3-point range. They have also taken 577 3-pointers this season. In addition, they are second in the conference from deep. Meanwhile, the Tar Heels only shoot 31 percent from deep. Comparatively, they have taken 427 3-pointers this season. Still, they take a few too many 3-pointers on a nightly basis.
When the Tar Heels are at their best, they are defending and getting easy shots in the paint. They shoot 54 percent from 2-point range, and they lead the ACC with 92 steals during conference play. Once the Tar Heels cause turnovers, they can become a juggernaut offensively. Still, the quick game plays into Duke’s hands.
With four players taking over four 3-pointers per game, the Blue Devils will not have a problem getting open shots. It will be a tale of momentum plays. Still, it will come down to some of the most talented players making a difference. Let’s see which style wins out.
After all, it’s Duke vs. North Carolina on ESPN.
Here are Five players to watch-
1. Brice Johnson- UNC: Brice Johnson is easily North Carolina’s most prolific scorer. Leading the Tar Heels with 16.4 points per game, Johnson sticks to his game. He shoots 61 percent from the field, second to Isaiah Hicks. He also hasn’t taken a 3-point shot, so Duke is unlikely to force Johnson out of his element.
Johnson is also a dominant rebounder from the power forward position. He leads the Tar Heels with 10 per game, and should give the Blue Devils trouble on the offensive glass. He leads the Tar Heels with 58 offensive rebounds. Not only should he be able to capitalize on Duke’s thin front court, his activity should slow down Duke’s fast break opportunities.
2. Brandon Ingram- Duke: This will be Brandon Ingram’s first taste of the Duke-Carolina rivalry. So, there’s no way to tell how he will react in this tense environment early-on. Ingram is second on the team in scoring, 17.2 points per game. Still, he might be the most explosive offensive option out of all the participants in tonight’s barnburner. Will Ingram be able to create offensive mismatches?
Ingram will likely be matched up with Johnson, but expect Duke to use some zone defense. He averages just under seven rebounds per game, and his competitive spirit must be on display following missed shots. His ability to help Marshall Plumlee on the glass will be key for Duke to limit second chance points.
3. Marcus Paige- UNC: On the season, Marcus Paige is averaging 13 points per game. He also dishes out 3.7 assists per game. Both are those are good for second on the team, but he’s capable of giving more. He’s one of North Carolina’s 3-point threats, taking over five attempts per game. He makes 36 percent from deep.
This is one game where Paige can’t settle for long distance shots. As long as he’s in attack mode offensively, Paige should be able to put Derryck Thornton on his heels. Remember, Duke can’t afford foul trouble, so making them contest at the rim is valuable.
4. Justin Jackson- UNC: Justin Jackson is a long versatile defender on the wing. There are times he may find himself guarding Ingram. He may also find his way to sticking designated 3-point shooters, like Matt Jones and Luke Kennard. Clearly, the Tar Heels have the size advantage with Jackson at the three, but he has to be a difference maker on the floor.
Jackson averages 12 points per game, while shooting 48 percent from the field. However, he spends too much time beyond the 3-point line. He’s shooting 24 percent from 3-point range, and Duke will live with that all day.
5. Grayson Allen- Duke: Officially, Allen hit the game winning shot against Virginia. He also walked before releasing the ball. However, that one play kept Duke in the ACC race, and they have a chance to take another leap forward.
Allen leads the Blue Devils with 20 points per game, while shooting 42 percent from downtown. He also has the ability to attack the rim. That’s one of the reasons why he leads the Blue Devils with 6.5 free throw attempts. Will Allen have another opportunity to knock down big shots in the final moments?