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Duke vs. UNC: How To Guard The Tar Heels?

Will Duke go pressure or zone?

NCAA Basketball: Duke at Louisville
Jan 23, 2021; Louisville, KY, USA; Duke Blue Devils guard Jordan Goldwire (14) controls the ball against the Louisville Cardinals during a NCAA basketball game at the KFC Yum! Center.
Courier Journal-USA TODAY Sports

On Wednesday, we talked about the potential impact of Mark Williams on the UNC game Saturday. An emerging force for Duke and an outstanding shot blocker, Williams could cause major problems for UNC inside.

But Duke also has the potential to cause havoc on the perimeter.

UNC’s freshmen guards, like most freshmen, have been erratic, a problem intensified by the periodic pandemic disruptions.

Both Caleb Love and RJ Davis have had trouble with turnovers and neither one is shooting well: Love is hitting 30.4 percent overall and just 22.2 percent from behind the line while Davis, ostensibly a shooting guard, clocks in at 36.1 percent and 31.6 percent respectively.

Kerwin Walton has emerged as a solid marksman, hitting 42.4 percent and 45.3 percent overall.

Overall though, it’s probably not great when your second-best three point shooter is 6-1 Garrison Brooks at 40 percent.

So Duke has a couple of interesting options: it can either use a swift perimeter corps of Jordan Goldwire, Wendell Moore, DJ Steward, Jeremy Roach and Jalen Johnson, backed by Joey Baker and Jaemyn Brakefield, to pressure the Tar Heels and try to force turnovers. This would allow Duke transition opportunities.

Or it could pack things in and surround Williams with Johnson, Matthew Hurt, perhaps Patrick Tapé if he is healthy, Moore and Baker, who has proven to be a very willing defender, and force UNC to shoot over a zone.

Of course this all hinges on Duke’s not playing like they did at Miami, a performance that coach Mike Krzyzewski found “sad” and “soft.”

Our guess is that he’ll play the guys who are most willing to shed those tags, and also that the team, in general, has had some time to reflect on that game and will be determined to do better.

And we’re pretty sure that practice hasn’t been as much fun this week as it may have been at other times too.