Next up is Carolina, and you know what that means: nobody really knows.
There's no doubt that UNC has struggled some this season. A lot of it is just youth: Dexter Strickland is a senior and and Reggie Bullock and Leslie McDonald are juniors.Â
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That's it for upper classmen. Desmond Hubert, PJ Hairston, James Michael McAdoo and Jackson Simmons are the sophomores; Marcus Paige, Brice Johnson JP Tokoto and Jo-el (Krypton pronunciation!) James.
James will be sitting out as he recovers from a concussion.
UNC has shown signs, but earlier this season, radio man Eric Montross said the Heels had a lot of really good role players and not enough stars, or words to that effect, and there is some truth to his analysis.
McAdoo will become a really good player, but he's being forced to play to things that aren't his strengths. Against Miami, he was pretty much shut down. When he becomes an assertive player, he'll be devastating.
The other big men have partially formed games - Johnson has immense potential but his defense is suspect; Hubert is a solid defender but not assertive offensively. James looks like he eats bricks but he hasn't played long and is not yet a skilled player.
Ballhandling is another concern. Marcus Paige is the best ballhandler on the squad, but he's a 6-0, 157 lb. freshman, roughly the same size as young Sugar Ray Leonard as a middleweight.
Next best is Dexter Strickland, who plays some point guard but isn't a natural fit.
After that? Maybe Luke Davis. After that? Gets pretty iffy.
As Al Featherston points out today, Coach K says Duke is potentially vulnerable to offensive rebounding and transition and he believes those are strong points for UNC.
Not that we would argue with any coach, but to us, the keys to beating UNC are this: make life miserable for Paige (perhaps Sulaimon), keep after Bullock and see if you can discourage McAdoo.Â
To go back to Leonard, he was a phenomenal boxer, but he fought against guys his own size. It'd be interesting to see Sulaimon, at 6-4 and 185, or for that matter, Quinn Cook at 6-1 and 175 or Tyler Thornton at 6-1 and 190.Â
It'll be impressive if Paige handles all the pressure Duke can throw at him.Â
The other thing that's potentially a tough deal for UNC is Cameron.
Normally a tough crowd anyway, for UNC it goes to another level. We always say if you can hear Cameron from the other side of Wallace Wade, it's going to be a great game. That's almost always the case for UNC.
To be sure, though, there are no guarantees in this game, and some of the most memorable games have come when one side is down. The game in 1972 was incredible; the 1981 senior day game equally so.
UNC is always a scary opponent, but this year, with the struggles they've had, a win over Duke would be a serious tonic. It's not exactly the Battle of The Bulge - comparing war and sports is kind of dumb - but it represents kind of the same thing: things aren't going well and a win over the #2 or #1 team (pick your poll) would turn UNC's season around in a hurry. And needless to say, it would significantly improve their shaky NCAA chances. The rivalry, and everything else aside, in that sense, this game means a lot for UNC and the Bulge may be a reasonable metaphor after all.Â Â