Duke Beat: The Rivalry

On Wednesday night Duke will face off against North Carolina for the 235th time in the greatest rivalry in all of sports.

Spare me the insults that say Red Sox/Yankees, who play about 18 games every year, is the greatest rivalry in sports. Or Michigan/Ohio State. Name one memory from this past season’s game? I can’t. I don’t even think I watched it. But everyone, Duke fans, UNC fans, college basketball fans, sports fans in general remember the name…AUSTIN RIVERS. Rivers provided one of the greatest moments in the history of the most storied rivalry when he put the finishing touches on a crazy comeback to beat the Tar Heels in Chapel Hill last season.

What can we expect this time around? Duke will still be without Ryan Kelly. UNC is coming into the game with James Michael McAdoo banged up. His effectiveness will be key to UNC. If he can’t go or isn’t close to 100% it spells big trouble for the Tar Heels.

But what does each team need to do in order to win the game? Here are my keys to victory for both Duke and UNC.

Duke:

1. Hot Start – The Blue Devils need to get off to a hot start like they did against FSU and NC State. One of the main reasons is to take away any confidence the Tar Heels may have in winning the game. We’ve seen them get down and several of the Heels give up. If we can break their backs early, it could be a fun night in Cameron. The other reason is Duke’s shooting in the second half of both the FSU and NC State games cooled. We know UNC has shooters that can score and score quickly. If they get hot and Duke goes cold, they’ll need that cushion as they did against NC State.

2. Pressure Paige – The freshmen PG has not faced anything like he will face Wed. night in his first trip to Cameron. It will be important for the Duke defense to pressure him early and often to create turnovers, which will lead to fast break points. This will also help keep UNC out of rhythm and make it harder for them to score. Plus a lot of fast break points (and Mason Plumlee dunks) will energize the Cameron Crazies even more and feed the Blue Devils on both ends of the court.

UNC:

1. Hot Start – As with the Blue Devils, the Tar Heels need to get off to a hot start. They cannot afford to have Duke go on a 20-0 run in the first half. Past Tar Heel teams could handle that, but with as many holes as the Tar Heels have dug this year, I don’t know if they have many comebacks left in them at all at this point in the season. A hot start would also help cool the Cameron Crazies who are dreaming of another 82-50 victory as Duke had in 2010.

2. Pressure the Shooters – UNC will need to make it extremely difficult for Duke’s guards, especially Seth Curry, to get clean, open looks at 3s. When the three point shot is not falling for Duke, it has been known to affect their defense. Duke can’t afford to get soft on D because UNC can put up points in hurry, making it hard for Duke to stage a comeback to win.

Who wins? I believe Duke will get off to a hot start. Aside from the Boston College game, which was not a typical game day for them and disrupted their entire rhythm, Duke has shot well their last few games. I think they keep it up against UNC who will make a fight of it early, but succumb to the Duke pressure and outside shooting. Duke wins 85-70.

Chris Summerville is originally from Indian Trail, NC and currently resides in Monroe, NC.  He has been a lifetime Duke fan and knows exactly what he was doing when Christian Laettner crushed the hopes and dreams (and Aminu Timberlakes intestines) of Kentucky fans.  Chris graduated from UNC Asheville in 2003 with a degree in Multimedia Arts & Sciences.  By day he is Creative Director for one of the major billiard companies in the US.  By night he prowls the interwebs as the Duke of Hoops.  Chris can often be found on Twitter arguing with UNC fans.

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