New-Look North Carolina Tar Heels Face Same Bitter Rivalry vs. Duke Blue Devils

By Jeremy Roth
North Carolina Tar Heels
Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Tomorrow night is the night that all North Carolina Tar Heels fans have been waiting for all season. The boys from Chapel Hill take on the Duke Blue Devils in the most profound rivalry game in all of college basketball, and the Heels are coming into the game with all of the momentum in the world. The team is on a five-game win streak in the ACC, and they do not plan on letting their bitter in-state rivals end that hot streak.

Although the Tar Heels began ACC play 0-3 and have been inconsistent throughout most of the beginning half of the season, they have finally come together and shown the nation exactly what Tar Heels basketball is all about. The game against Duke is the equivalent of championship matchup, and the team is more than ready to prove that they are the best team in the state of North Carolina.

The game will certainly be a great challenge for the Tar Heels, but it is a challenge they are prepared to overcome. Marcus Paige has been playing like a star throughout the team’s win streak, and this would be an awful game for him to slow down. He has an average of 18 points per game during the win streak, and he leads the team in scoring with 17 points per game on the season. Also, his three-point numbers have risen drastically, so if he and Leslie McDonald can show some life from beyond the arc in tomorrow night’s game then Duke is in a boatload of trouble.

James Michael McAdoo has also been stellar as of late, and he is finally proving the nation that he was not overrated when he entered college basketball two years ago. His momentum in the frontcourt is vital if the Tar Heels plan on extending the win streak, and along with some help from Kennedy Meeks and Brice Johnson, the team’s frontcourt could single-handedly dominate this game. Meeks was on a hot streak of his own, but it came to an end in the team’s previous game against Notre Dame, so hopefully he picks it back up tomorrow night. As for Johnson, he has been the only bench player to make an impact as of late, and a continuation of this trend would be key for the Tar Heels. If the rest of the bench can finally wake up and add a little something to the team’s scoring effort then the Tar Heels will come out against Duke with a scary balanced attack.

Duke is led in scoring by freshman phenom Jabari Parker with 19.2 points per game, and he is basically an NBA forward competing against collegiate athletes. It will be up to J.P. Tokoto‘s stellar athleticism and McAdoo’s strength in the frontcourt to just simply slow down Parker which is really the only option that the Tar Heels have. As for the rest of the Blue Devils, Quinn Cook could give Paige some serious difficulty in the backcourt. Not only is he a threat defensively, but he is a major contributor to the Blue Devils’ almost unstoppable three-point shooting game. As a team, they are shooting over 40 percent from beyond the arc, and in past seasons it has been their three-point game that has killed the Tar Heels. Tyler Thornton is one of Duke’s leading three-point shooters with percentage well over 50 percent, and Rasheed Sulaimon is also a threat from long range with an average up close to 50 percent. If the Tar Heels want to come out of this game victorious, they must either execute a solid half-court press or defend the arc better than they have ever defended before.

On a bright note for the Tar Heels, Duke is a very poor rebounding team while UNC is 9th in the nation in the category. Not only do the Tar Heels need to dominate the Blue Devils on the boards, but they need to come down with an abundance of offensive rebounds then capitalize on second-chance opportunities.

The Tar Heels were unfortunately swept by their arch rival last season, so they are guaranteed to be coming into this game with a vengeance. As long as they play with the same momentum and sense of urgency that we have seen from them in recent games, the Dookies are going to be in huge trouble tomorrow night in Chapel Hill.

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