The last time North Carolina and Duke played, the Tar Heels came back from being down by 11 points and shocked the Blue Devils in Chapel Hill. A lot was made when coach Roy Williams switched the Tar Heels’ defense over to a 1-3-1 zone. However, there was a big part of the game that did not get much discussion, and it will play a major role in the outcome of the rivalry at Cameron Indoor Stadium on Saturday.
North Carolina outrebounded Duke 43-30 and grabbed four more offensive rebounds. Duke is not a big team and North Carolina is, but that is not always important in the rebounding game. Duke desperately needs to attack the boards if coach Mike Krzyzewski wants to head into the ACC tournament with a victory.
Duke only averages 34.8 rebounds per game (175th in NCAA) and while that number is not great, usually the Blue Devils shoot well enough to make that a moot point. Well, Duke is struggling at shooting right now and needs to have someone other than Jabari Parker, who leads the ACC in rebounding, to accumulate a high number of boards.
Duke has lost five games in conference play and in four of those games, it was outdone on the boards. This is a trend the Blue Devils certainly do not want carrying over to the NCAA tournament. The postseason is usually all about matchups, and it only takes one game where the Devils are outrebounded that could cost them.
North Carolina is a balanced rebounding team where four players — James Michael McAdoo, Kennedy Meeks, Brice Johnson and J.P. Tokoto — average at least 5.8 rebounds per game. The Tar Heels average 40.6 rebounds per game (eighth in the country) and use that advantage to start the offense.
North Carolina can’t shoot and must grab rebounds and run. If North Carolina can do this against Duke, the Tar Heels could roll into the ACC tournament with 13 straight victories.
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