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Next Up - UNC In Chapel Hill

As America’s finest rivalry resumes

“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” Actor Mads Mikkelsen Visits Walt Disney World Resort
Use the force, Duke
Photo by Kent Phillips/Walt Disney Co. via Getty Images

Next up is a trip down 15-501 to Chapel Hill, a town that Mike Krzyzewski says that in four decades he has never visited other than game days with the Tar Heels.

UNC won in Cameron earlier, 91-87, but a lot has changed since then.

  • Date: 3/6
  • Time: 6:00
  • Venue: Dean Smith Center
  • Video: ESPN

First, Mark Williams has emerged for the Blue Devils and the 7-0 freshman has made a major impact on defense, blocking many shots and changing others. At times he’s far enough above the shooter to absolutely spike the ball. We wish he’d start catching it but spiking shots at this point seems to be hardwired into the game. The problem is that it often just gives the ball back for another attempt. Nothing could be more intimidating than swiping a shot and starting a fast break, but we’ll have to wait for that savant to come along.

In Durham, Armando Bacot, Garrison Brooks and Day’Ron Sharpe combined for 39 points on 16-26 from the floor and grabbed 23 rebounds.

By contrast, Duke’s front court starters finished with 24 points and 16 rebounds.

Williams played 15 minutes and had eight rebounds, three blocks and two points. That put teammate Matthew Hurt at a disadvantage inside and he fouled out in 21 minutes.

Despite that, it was still a winnable game.

UNC won largely on the back of a brilliant performance by Caleb Love, and that’s an interesting factor.

Love, whose father said had Duke stuff on his walls and dreamed of playing in Durham, may have had an incentive to stick it to the Devils. He shot 8-15 in Durham, 4-5 from three point range and finished with 25.

He made his point but hasn’t performed at that level since. He’s only hit two threes in the intervening six games and only topped .500 overall against Louisville in a laugher of a game.

But we remember Jason Williams.

Why?

Because he was annoyed that UNC stopped recruiting him. He was seriously interested in Chapel Hill but then-coach Bill Guthridge had other plans. Williams, like Love, enjoyed sticking it to the staff that passed on him.

So we’d keep an eye on Love.

And then there’s Walker Kessler to deal with.

He only played two minutes at Duke and seemed buried on the bench. Well not so fast because he’s become a big factor for UNC and shown that he’s a legit talent.

UNC’s size inside is insane. Take a look:

  • Kessler: 7-1/245
  • Sharpe: 6-11/265
  • Brooks: 6-10/240
  • Bacot: 6-10/240

They probably won’t go this deep but they also have Sterling Manley, who is 6-11/250 and the second Walker, Walker Miller, 6-11/235.

It’s a roster Bo Ryan would have loved.

The size and power presents issues for Williams. He’s shown a natural talent for shot blocking and has made a major impression offensively where he pairs his athletic ability with an imposing intelligence.

We’ve seen him make some truly remarkable passes and under great pressure too. We’ve seen him pop out to show a bit of range as well.

The only drawback to Williams is that he’s not that strong yet and he has to go up against a wall of beef. If he can hold his own, Duke will be in pretty good shape.

Hurt has shown that he can play at a very high level and is shooting beautifully. Defense could be an issue for him in this game as well because he’ll have to guard a much thicker guy and, like Williams, is not physically mature. He’s much stronger than last year but in 4-5 years he’s going to be a different man.

Wendell Moore is likely to spend a lot of time matched up against Leaky Black and that’s probably going to be fun for the former high school teammates who won state championships at Concord’s Cox Mill. They’ll be pretty evenly matched too. Both guys are highly versatile, can handle the ball or defend somewhat bigger players and can shoot periodically.

Interestingly, Black’s shooting has basically declined annually. He started at 41 percent as a freshman, which fell to 35.9 percent in last year’s disaster and is back up to 38 percent this season.

However, his three point shooting has gone from 41 percent to 25.4 percent to 22.2 percent this year and his free throws are down from a highly respectable 85.7 percent as a freshman to 69.6 last year and 68.8 so far this year.

Moore is basically tracking last year’s percentage overall despite his painful shooting slump early where he shot 1-21 over four games.

Last year he shot 41.6 percent; this year so far 41.7. Obviously the slump had an effect. His three point shooting is up as is free throw shooting.

It took Moore a little while to settle down but once he did he’s been a rock.

At times he seems to press himself and, from where we sit, that’s when he tends to make mistakes. But he’s really cut down on those and is maturing nicely.

Duke’s backcourt is where we’d like to see some progress.

For much of the Georgia Tech game, Duke’s backcourt was nearly shut out. Jeremy Roach finished 1-3, Jordan Goldwire was 2-6 and DJ Steward was 2-8. Joey Baker was also 1-5 and Jaemyn Brakefield was 1-8.

Baker and Brakefield (those guys really need to add an LLC there) aren't really guards but can score from the perimeter. Not in Atlanta though, where they combined to shoot 1-8 from behind the line.

We know at this point what Goldwire is and offense from him, while very welcome, isn’t his strength. He’s a tireless defender and he’s really, really good at it.

He’s also a senior and Steward and Roach are freshmen who, like UNC’s Love and RJ Davis, were thrown into the fire and told to sink or swim.

Hey, we can mix metaphors with the best of them.

Duke will need more from the freshmen. Moore and Goldwire can cover point guard if needed but UNC is huge and getting inside on that team won’t be easy. A solid perimeter game would make a huge difference and would force the Tar Heels to adjust.

As a lot of people have mentioned, this game is unusual since either Duke or UNC has been ranked since the early ‘60s.

That’s not there Saturday. But emotion will be. And if you think that Wendell Moore won’t walk out and remember last year’s stunning finish in Chapel Hill, or that the other Blue Devils and the Tar Heels won’t, think again.

This is likely to be a very intense game, even by the standards of America’s finest sports rivalry. We wouldn’t miss it and we’re guessing you wouldn't either.

Links for this game are posted here.