Will North Carolina be able to avenge last month’s loss to Duke tomorrow night? Or will the Blue Devils be able to sweep the regular season series against the Tar Heels and keep the momentum going as they head into the ACC Tournament?
On paper there is little reason to suspect that the Tar Heels will be able to hang with the Blue Devils. Minus senior forward Ryan Kelly during the first battle between these two teams, the Blue Devils still managed to win 73-68 behind 18 points each from Mason Plumlee and Quinn Cook. Imagine the trouble the Tar Heels will have now that Kelly is in the lineup.
That being said, one thing you can usually bank on in these Tobacco Road clashes is to expect the unexpected, even if one team seems to have a significant advantage over the other. While the Blue Devils boast one of the nation’s best starting fives in Kelly, Plumlee, Cook, Seth Curry and Rasheed Sulaimon, there is little debate that depth is an issue for the club beyond this group of players. They all average double figures in points, but it’s a steep drop from Sulaimon’s 11.7 PPG to freshman forward Amile Jefferson‘s 4.5 PPG.
North Carolina, on the other hand, has significant depth on their side. The firepower of James Michael McAdoo, Reggie Bullock and P.J. Hairston–all of whom average roughly 13-15 points per game–is supplemented by the efforts of four other players who average 6-8 points per game. Not only does this give the Tar Heels more options than Duke, but it also means that when important substitutions are made, the team will still be confident in who they have on the floor. This fact could be the key to an upset for North Carolina.
With pride on the line and with the ACC and NCAA Tournaments around the corner, both squads will be looking to build more momentum with a win here. Expect another classic matchup between these two teams as the Battle of the Blue Bloods continues.