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UNC vs. Duke, Round Two..... Fight!

I was channeling my best Karate Champ voice over from the NES for that title. Incidently you should always pick the guy in the White Gi if possible. He has a much better lifetime record. And with everyone always aiming for the head or trying to sweep the leg, my advice is work the straight side kick into the mix. Its damn effective.

Well here we are kiddos. The Two Blues lower their respective horns directly at one another again tonight. The Rivalry is renewed. All is right with the world. Ahhhhh.

Of course its easier to look forward to the game as a Duke fan this year. At stake for the Devils (beyond just beating the Tar Holes and breaking their current four game winning streak at Cameron) is a first place finish in the ACC regular season standings and the number one seed next week’s ACC Tournament. (Not sure of the tie breakers here but if Virginia and UNC both loose today looks like we could have Blue vs Blue Round Three next Friday - assuming the resurgent Heels could win their opening day game)

The Devils must surely be feeling the sting of the loss at Maryland. I think it must always be more difficult to loose the close ones. The haunting of the What-Ifs is cruel. What if we could have a made a couple more free throws? What if we hadn’t jacked up a few of those ill-advised shots down the stretch? What if our guy ‘Lennie’ with the lead pipe had been able to meet Vasquez in the dark alley?

As I said in the first Duke/UNC preview, the pressure in this game is still squarely on the Navy Blue squad. ESPN’s Accusore has the Devils winning 86% of 10,000 simulated matchups with an average margin of victory of 14 points. I wasn’t a math major but that sounds like they are heavy favorites.

I personally don’t expect the game to be a blowout, though given the Heel’s youth and lack of ‘gut check’ ability this season it is a possibility. I hope we won’t see a repeat of the kind of game we had in Chapel Hill a few weeks ago. (“Please Dear Basketball Gods make it stop! It’s hurting my eyes!”) I expect both teams to play reasonably well. And if they both do that, Duke should win. College basketball is driven by guard play, so Duke’s experience on the perimeter will likely carry the day.

But perhaps more importantly for Duke, this game is a chance to get back to the formula that this team has to win with: good defence, strong rebounding, and SHARING the offensive shot making responsibility. I realize that I may be taking the last five minutes of the Maryland game and putting too fine a magnifying glass on it - but it was disturbing. Duke players are not normally known for getting sucked into individualistic play, but that’s what it looked like to me against the Terps. This Duke team has to make shots to win. End of story. But the good news is they have a lot of players who can do that. The only requirement is that people be willing to swallow their egos for the good of the team. 

For the sake of his legacy, I hope Scheyer has a good game. But I hope he doesn’t need 15-20 shots to do it. The last 5 games he is 27-85 (31.7%) from the floor. That ain’t real great. Granted he has shot the ball better from beyond the arc - which is why his scoring is still there. But I personally would be much happier if his stat line were more like 12 points, 7 assists, 3 steals and no turnovers. That would be a true ‘monster’ game for him that would be more emblematic of his career at Duke. And more in line with what this Duke team needs to win in the next few weeks.