The North Carolina Tar Heels have won five straight games, are winning by an average of 13.8 points in the run, and are playing their best defense of the season. All of that makes it clear that North Carolina is ready for the Duke Blue Devils on Wednesday.
The Tar Heels are playing better because more players are contributing. Even earlier this season when North Carolina scored some upsets, the wins came basically with one or two players doing all the work. Marcus Paige was probably overworked during December and it was evident when his struggles in early January coincided with the Tar Heels’ 1-4 start in the ACC.
Now, James Michael McAdoo (15 PPG) seems to be more of the focal point on offense and the post players in general see way more of the ball. Going through the post is a trademark of a Roy Williams‘ offense. Kennedy Meeks has been playing well, Brice Johnson is very active and this has led to a better overall offensive experience. J.P. Tokoto has benefited from the better interior play and has used his athletic abilities to get to the hoop more. Duke has been playing better defense lately, but North Carolina’s offense is now much more difficult to contain for long periods of time.
North Carolina’s defense is also becoming one of the best in the ACC the last two weeks. The biggest difference the Tar Heels’ defense is hustle. When North Carolina was struggling, the players looked lethargic and often gave up on defense when the opposing offenses ran motion. The Tar Heels now drive players toward bad positions and often times force players into poor shots and turnovers. The Tar Heels are creating offense with their defense and are one of the better teams in the ACC at forcing turnovers. North Carolina has 23 steals in the last two games, and Duke has a tendency to get loose with the ball because their offense is quick. If Carolina grabs a few steals, scoring runs will occur.
Duke is playing like one of the best teams in the country, but with North Carolina’s recent play, the game looks a lot better on paper than it did two weeks ago.
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