Duke/Carolina — before tipoff

 

 

I’m planning on doing another running diary of Duke/Carolina on Saturday night, but I had some random thoughts about the game before it tips off.

 

Being that the game is in Cameron, and considering that the Devils have already beaten the Heels in Chapel Hill, I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that Duke should still be considered as the favorite to win, even though UNC is ranked No. 1.

 

The game has to come down to Ty Lawson, doesn’t it? Obviously, Tar Heels’ fans have been pointing out to anybody who will listen that Carolina was a different team against Duke without Lawson, who had suffered a high ankle sprain the week leading up to the teams’ Feb. 6 meeting.

While Quentin Thomas did OK in that game, he did have six turnovers when coming in Lawson had had just one turnover versus 20 assists in his last two games. Warrants mentioning.

Lawson is 10 times the player Thomas is, offensively and defensively. He isn’t a stopper, but he should match up better against Greg Paulus and possibly shut down some of the dribble penetration that Paulus and Duke used to kill Carolina from the perimeter in the first meeting.

Of course, is Lawson 100 percent since returning last week? Probably not. Is he then markedly better than Q like he was before he got hurt? Who knows? 

We’ll find out.

 

North Carolina’s defense has been better since the first few months of the season, but like all Tar Heels’ teams, they still give up a ton of 3-pointers. And of course, that’s what Duke does exceedingly well. Duke’s top seven players are all dangerous shooters, and DeMarcus Nelson’s combination of shooting ability and strength scares every UNC fan. He could absolutely take over any game.

Nelson should have taken the ball to the rack against Carolina more, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Devils make that adjustment.

 

It will be interesting to see how Duke matches up with Tyler Hansbrough. Hansbrough had little help from UNC’s shooters in the first meeting — Wayne Ellington and Danny Green were atrocious, and at one point were a combined 2-for-14 from the field. If that happens again, it could be a laugher.

 

I keep waiting for Gerald Henderson to completely take over a game. Might it be Saturday night?

 

Every time Jon Scheyer lets it fly, I think it’s going in. Do Duke fans feel that way about Ellington?

 

In my diary of the first meeting, I wrote this: 

“Here’s the thing, and this is why, even with Lawson, UNC probably won’t win a national title this year: the Heels can’t get stops when they absolutely have to. The only reason UNC had a chance to trim the deficit from five was when Paulus threw the ball to the Duke bench. Most of the stops have been a result of Duke’s mistakes, meaning poor shot selection from deep.”I don’t see where any of that has been corrected on the Heels’ part.

 

 

Looking back on it, UNC didn’t play very well against Duke and was never really out of the game until late. A bucket here and there after one of those rare stops might have been enough to make it a one-possession game throughout the second half. But also looking back on it, Duke wasn’t at its best, either, and it won. That says something.

 

Will Carolina again allow itself to forget about Hansbrough for long stretches like it did in the first meeting? When the Heels absolutely need a bucket, they have to go to him. He had 18 by halftime in the first game, but had one point in the first 8 minutes of the second half. 

 

Speaking of Hansbrough, doesn’t there have to be a game soon when all those awkward-looking, seemingly ill-advised hooks and leaners just  refuse to go in? He’s the best finisher in the country, but could the Heels win in Cameron without a big night from Hansbrough? I don’t think so.

 

Kyle Singler can flat-out play. He always seems to come up with a back-breaking play late in a game to preserve a win for Duke.

 

Deon Thompson was horrible against Duke in the first meeting. The Heels should try to establish him early to give him some confidence.

 

Anybody else nervous? I am.

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Filed under College Basketball, Designated Hitter, Duke Blue Devils, Sports, Sports columns, The Sanford Herald, UNC Tar Heels

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