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Next Up - UNC

We normally do game previews on game day, but with the weather we're looking at in the Triangle, we may not get a chance to do that. So here's an early preview for UNC. If we have power tomorrow (no sure thing), we'll add to it.

Mar 8, 2014; Durham, NC, USA; Duke Blue Devils head coach Mike Krzyzewski and North Carolina Tar Heels head coach Roy Williams greet each other before the start of their game at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
Mar 8, 2014; Durham, NC, USA; Duke Blue Devils head coach Mike Krzyzewski and North Carolina Tar Heels head coach Roy Williams greet each other before the start of their game at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
Mark Dolejs-USA TODAY Sports

This year's Duke-UNC game has a slightly different feel: The game is to an extent overshadowed by the death of long-time UNC coach Dean Smith. His passing has caused a lot of emotions from many people and may have had something to do with UNC's weak performance at Pitt.

We wouldn't expect a repeat Wednesday, assuming that the game goes on. It wouldn't be the first time that the game gets postponed due to weather.

Assuming that it does, however, the emotions and excitement surrounding this singular rivalry will push both teams to excellence.

That said, there are still some issues for UNC, not least of all guarding Jahlil Okafor.

At this point, Okafor has established himself as if not the best big man in the country certainly one of a very small number of superb post players.

And given UNC's defense so far this season, that's a problem.

Kennedy Meeks is big enough to bang with Okafor, but he's not quite as tall. Joel James is as big but hasn't yet developed serious basketball skills. Brice Johnson gives up 50 lbs and he's never been a passionate defender.

With Desmond Hubert out, UNC is down another big man, not that he's played much this year.

There are options however.

UNC could zone, or it could go with something like a diamond and one or triangle and two. It could double or triple Okafor, although a triple is much less likely given that Duke has multiple guys who can make you pay from behind the line.

Justise Winslow is also a tough matchup for UNC. He's as athletic as JP Tokoto or the injured Theo Pinson, but much more powerfully built.

An interesting matchup will be how Duke deals with Justin Jackson. The 6-8 freshman is 6-8 and perimeter oriented, so he'll be a tough matchup for Duke's guards.

The most difficult Heel, however, is still Marcus Paige.

One of the best players to come out of Iowa - behind Doug McDermott but arguably ahead of Harrison Barnes - Paige has been sensational at UNC and has always shown a cutthroat desire to step up at winning time.

Unfortunately for Paige and UNC, he's suffered through plantar fasciitis this season and it's affected his game. Anyone who has ever suffered it will marvel that he's doing as well as he is, but he's clearly not the player that he was last year.

So what to expect from UNC? That's easy - best outing of the year.

That's what this rivalry does to players. We saw a hint of it at Syracuse when the overall excitement picked up the Orange and propelled them to a first half well beyond their normal standard this year.

It's more intense here.

Look back over the history.

In his final home game, Dick Groat hit 48 points and led Duke to a 94-64 win.

In 1968, Fred Lind led Duke to a remarkable triple overtime win despite scoring only 12 points all year.

Robbie West helped inspire one of the biggest upsets in the history of the rivalry when he led Duke to a stunning win over #3 UNC in 1972.

Gene Banks tossed roses to the crowd on Senior Day and then had a brilliant game to help down the Heels, 66-65 in overtime.

In 1998, Duke was down 17 at home but roared back to nip the Heels 77-75.

We could list a few dozen games but we'll stop with the Austin Rivers game. Rivers had just one year at Duke, but he left behind an indelible memory as he pushed and pulled Tyler Zeller out of his comfort zone and nailed a legendary three pointer.

Thing is, UNC has just as many stories to tell. There was the Dahntay Calabria game where Calabria hit a shot while falling down.  There was the classic in 1995, topped for UNC by Jerry Stackhouse's astounding dunk over Cherokee Parks and Erik Meek.

Above all there was the 8 points in 16 seconds game, where Walter Davis hit a really long shot to push the game into overtime where the Heels prevailed.

This year, the two teams are headed in opposite directions, with Duke on a nice roll and UNC having lost three of its last five.

Don't even go there. The old cliche about toss out the records when these two get together, blah, blah, blah - that's the way it usually goes.

But this year, Duke has a rising star in Okafor, a guy who is going to be a force in the game for years to come. The Devils are thin but solid at each position. The bench is just three players now, but each one has improved.

In general, Duke is in a superior position. Will that be enough?

We'll see Wednesday.

One final note: for the first time in, well forever, Dick Vitale will not be in Cameron this year. He's very gracious about it, saying that without ESPN there would be no Hall of Fame for him, but it must be killing him. It'd be nice if he were remembered by the Crazies during the broadcast.