Rush to Judgment: UNC-Duke Rematch Edition

USA TODAY Sports

Having just come off of round 1 of the Tobacco Road Rivalry, we figured it's never too early to begin forecasting round 2.

Before we get too removed from Wednesday night's Carolina-Duke slugfest (a description chosen because watching that game often felt like getting hit repeatedly in the face), we figured it was time to get the gang back together to draw lots of irrational and premature conclusions about what we think will happen the next time the Devils and Heels take the court in Chapel Hill on March 9. Here's what the Blue vs Blue crew had to say:

THE UNC SIDE

Zeke: Honestly, if I was hoping to split the season series 1-1, I think I was watching the game the Heels had a chance to take this past Wednesday night. UNC got a lot of breaks in the first half that quite frankly they didn't take enough advantage of, despite actually leading by double digits at one point. There were a lot of ways that Carolina could have taken that game and just handed it over instead, and you can bet when Duke comes to Chapel Hill they won't be caught off-guard by a lineup change (unless Roy wants to put Luke Davis in the starting lineup suddenly) and K will doubtlessly be reminding them time after time about the horrendous first half they had taking care of the basketball in Durham. Yes, PJ could have shot better and maybe Bullock could have gotten the ball a little more, but until James Michael McAdoo shows me he's ready to be a more efficient player and thus Carolina has a more reliable post threat to match its able wings, I just don't know if I see UNC getting the win. Then again, I've been wrong a lot this year, so why stop now??

Will: After Wednesday night, I feel much better about our chances of beating Duke this year than I did before Wednesday night (and MUCH better than I did this fall). I still think we'll have to shoot it really well and expect some help--either from Duke missing shots, the refs missing calls (like, I don't know, our shooting guard getting from midcourt to the three-point line in four steps without dribbling, or our center putting a forearm in their center's back on a rebound forcing him to score an own goal), or both. But I really like the match-ups in these games this year, even with Kelly coming back. Paige on Cook is great (advantage Cook), Bullock on Curry is strong (advantage Bullock), veteran Strickland on freshman Sulaimon is intriguing, McAdoo on Plumlee is high-profile, and (if we go small again, as we probably should) Hairston on Kelly would be very interesting. If we can figure out a way to keep our intensity up for a full 40 minutes and stay out of foul trouble, it's ours for the taking. I predict that it's Thornton that gets in foul trouble and Curry that hits Duke's threes next time, that P. J. goes for 30+, Joel James fouls out in 8 minutes of play, McAdoo finally finishes a nasty one over Plumlee (though this could also be Hairston), and Plumlee goes for 25 and 10 in a 6-point loss (it would have been 7 if Strickland could have hit both final free throws).

THE DUKE SIDE

McLeod: So Ol' Coy Roy pulled a fast one in Cameron and switched up the lineup to see if he could throw Duke off its game and create some mismatches. I say he was coy because of his smug-ass comments after the game when asked if this was a one-time lineup change or something that could be expected in the future and he said, "I'll play whoever the dickens I think is the gosh darn right team at that cotton-pickin time." Seriously, that's a direct quote. (No, it isn't, but can someone please put together a Top 10 Huckleberry Hound post-game interview moments?)

What does this make me think about the next game in Chapel Hell? Nothing different, in general, but perhaps a lot in a vacuum. Duke's collective head was up its collective hindquarters for the first 10 minutes or so with terrible decisions, terrible execution, and terrible effort. That hand-delivered the Heels pretty much the entirety of its lead. Outside of that you have a close game with Duke figuring out the UNC lineup change while earnestly trying to foul out the starting 5. Mason's foul trouble actually helped as it caused Duke to also go small and better match up with UNC. From there, the better team methodically took control.

So, what's in store for the next game? I think a lot of it has to do with how badly UNC needs the win at the end of the season. It was pointed out that the Heels needed the win on Wednesday more than Duke did and it showed in those focus, effort, and execution categories (well, for 25 minutes). If UNC is still on the bubble come March 9th and if Duke still trails Miami in the ACC standings (with Miami likely capturing the ACC's #1 seed in the NCAAs at that point) then again the Heels have much more to play for. Add on top of that the possible return of Ryan Kelly, which, though anticipated with bated breath, could have the "Kyrie effect" where team chemistry isn't quite back, and you have another intangible pointing towards the Heels.

Duke is the better team this year, but like all the "better" teams around the country this year, they're not immune to losing. Like Will, I think the ‘Holes gained confidence in Cameron this week (but don't call it a dad gum moral victory!) and with some intangibles perhaps leaning their way by mid-March, we might just see a UNC victory in the Dean Dome under the constellations of hanging Tarheel jerseys. That's right, a Dukie picking a Tarheel victory. But, like my buddy Stuart, this just gives me a win/win scenario regardless of the outcome...

Bart: Here's what I will expect, when the Devils visit the Dean Dump,

  1. Attendance will be high, since most of the students already know they will be receiving "high marks" for all the "work" they will be doing for their "classes". The players' collective confidence will also be high, having just come off of 2 consecutive wins over teams ranked inside the RPI 100. Something they haven't managed to do all year.
  2. Roy will use 18 dadgum lineup combinations over the course of the game, regularly and inexplicably sitting Bullock and Hairston at the same time like he did in the first game. Roy WIlliams, folks, our man Will's "coach" of the decade.
  3. Duke will have a stretch or stretches totaling 8 minutes during which they which they will miss all of their shots, including several that most high school JV teams would make.
  4. James Michael Flopadoodledoo will a) flop b) take at least 4 horrifyingly poor shots c) have several spectacular plays and d) surprise himself by playing defense once, get confused, and then decide to concentrate on his offense some more
  5. Tar Heel fans will cry about the officiating ( especially because their team is going to lose)
  6. ok, for serious :
    *Duke will not hand the ball to UNC in such wretched and appalling fashion ( more TOs in the first half of the first matchup than they average per game).
    *Duke will have Ryan Kelly back which means a matchup problem for the Heels,( like he was for everybody else before he got hurt).
    *UNC will not shoot as poorly from the line, but they will not get to the line as often, and Duke will not be in the same kind of foul trouble ( 5 offensive fouls ? that's not happening again) *Seth Curry will play better ( because he can't play much worse) and so will Mason.
    *PJ will definitely hit more than 1 three pointer, but Duke holds its ACC opponents to 30% from 3 ( UNC shot 28% last night) while Heels hold their opponents to 38% ( Duke shot 38% last night). So don't expect the change to be too dramatic.

  7. I think last night was the Heels chance to win against Duke this year and they blew it. Duke wins 85 - 72.

Scott: Frankly, if Ryan Kelly is back, I expect Duke to win in a game probably very similar to the other night -- although maybe played a little better. Hairston and Bullock are nice players, but I think their stature is exaggerated a bit since they are the best players on that team. Roy went small, the same way he came back against Texas, then went away from it, just like he did against Texas. He coaches like I play Madden -- if I can't win running the plays and schemes I like to run, then dadgummit, I guess I'll lose. Except he can't hit the reset button. Duke's just better this year, just like Carolina was clearly better last year. If Ryan Kelly isn't back, then I think the "who has the most to play for" factor kicks in. Duke should still win, but if Miami has wrapped up the conference and UNC is on the bubble. I thought 82-68 for this last game, and I was half right. I'm thinking 85-78 Duke in Chappa Heeya.

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