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Inside the Rivalry: How Duke can beat UNC

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Round One kicks off this Wednesday and while the Blue Devils will likely be heavy favorites, there's no harm in listening to some advice from the other side of the rivalry... is there?

Just make it look like.... an accident
Just make it look like.... an accident
USA TODAY Sports

There's no reason the veteran-led No. 1 or 2 team in the nation should have any trouble dispatching an inexperienced, unranked Heels squad in Cameron Indoor this Wednesday, but I suppose these things are always 50/50 in some respect. So, if the Dukies are still looking for some advice from the opponent's perspective, I can give them a few hints:

1. Shoot threes. As we witnessed (yet again) in the Miami game, the first step to beating the Heels is to take a lot--and make a lot--of threes. (Before Saturday, Miami was averaging about 19 3FG attempts per game. They took 26 against the Heels. They were averaging less than 7 made 3FGs per game, yet matched a school record 15 on Saturday, and their 57.7% 3FG percentage totally eclipsed their 35% average on the year.)

Fortunately, for Duke, this is all they ever want to do. When they're not practicing charge-taking and slap-out offensive rebounding, they're practicing ball screen-ball screen-ball screen (the defense of which also happens to be the most glaring weakness in Carolina's entire defensive scheme).

An opponent's advice to Coach K: Utilize the top-of-the-key ball screen at least twice on every single possession, once for Cook and once for Curry.

2. Assault the interior. When they're not jacking threes or falling down to manufacture whistles, the Dukies will need to concentrate all their remaining offensive and defensive energies on the zero-foot-zero, zero-pound ghost in the Carolina post. The Specter averages 0.0 ppg and 0.0 rpg (good for second on the team among Tar Heel bigs), and is generally, though not always, averse to handing the ball directly to you.

Fortunately (again), for Duke, they have one of the nation's best centers to counter this complete Emptiness at Carolina's five-spot. They might even want to consider letting Plumlee shoot the ball more than Curry this game.

An opponent's advice to Mason Plumlee: On defense, when Carolina's big men shoot, jump into the air and put your hand up (you will block said shot). Also, when someone else shoots, simply turn around and catch the ball that may be caroming off the apparatus (no one should be there to impede this). And on offense, stand in front of the large space in the middle of the lane. When your teammates throw you the ball, turn around and place it in the hoop (no one should be there to prevent this either).

3. Win the energy battle. Playing in Cameron--where every Quinn Cook floor slap raises the decibel level 10%, and whose denizens are dedicated and creative enough to conjure uniform cheers about your deceased grandmother--getting hype for the Heels will clearly be a non-issue for the Dukies.

But generating your own energy is only half of the equation. You also need to neutralize the energy coming from your opponent--which, in Carolina's case, is concentrated in one player: P. J. Hairston. The most practical and sensible course of action here is the cheap shot. For a program notorious for stomping on opponents' chests, starting scrubs to rough up star point guards (Patrick Davidson would win the team's "Coach's Award" that year, given to the "Player Exemplifying the Commitment and Values of Duke Basketball"), and throwing elbows in the waning seconds of double-digit defeats (Gerald Henderson would take the "Coach's Award" in 2008), this is certainly a viable option that will not be frowned upon, and it's where Tyler Thornton (another--guess what!--former "Coach's Award" recipient) will earn his scholarship.

An opponent's advice to Tyler Thornton: Undercut Hairston on an attempted alley, then pretend you were just trying to get a head start on boxing out.

In short, Carolina's three biggest areas of weakness--three-point defense, post presence, and maintaining a sense of urgency--also happen to be the three biggest areas of strength for Duke, especially in Cameron. If Duke can't manage to pull this one out at home, you can forget about the 1-seed talk come March--they probably wouldn't even deserve a 2-seed. (Which, if recent memory has any bearing, would probably suit Duke fans just fine.)