It’s that time of the year again with the clash of the two ACC titans, the Duke Blue Devils and the North Carolina Tar Heels. It seems each year the games between these two get even more heated, and the fans are even more rowdy. In this article, we will be discussing which team has the advantage in the first game of the season between the two heated rivals
Why Duke Will Win by Edward Ruff III
The Blue Devils are riding high as of late, winning their last five games this season, most notably against the previously undefeated Virginia Cavaliers and a huge statement beating a top-10 Notre Dame team. In the past 11 match ups since 2010, Duke has gone 8-3 against the Tar Heels, including winning the last matchup between the teams 93-81 at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
A great loss to the Duke squad was the dismissal of junior guard Rasheed Sulamon on Jan. 29. However, since his departure, the team is undefeated and sophomore guard Matt Jones has doubled his average from 4.7 PPG in the first 20 games of the season to 9 PPG in the past 5 games, including a breakout 17-point game against #10 Notre Dame.
Also, the play of the freshman trio of Tyus Jones, Justice Winslow, and Jahlil Okafor have shown to be reaching their strides, averaging 43.2 PPG between the three of them over the five-game winning streak. On the other side of the spectrum, North Carolina is slumping, losing three of their last four games. They lost their last time out on Valentine’s Day to Pitt 89-76, in a game that was already a double digit beating by halftime.
The Tar Heels are also mourning the loss of a legend in Dean Smith, which may be causing a bit more of a distraction than the team would like to admit. Garnering some outside feedback from around the school, senior Antonio Frisina predicts Duke will win. When asked why, he said ” Jahlil Okafar. Enough said.”
My prediction: The contest will be a hard fought, grind it out game, but Duke comes out on top 86-72.
Why UNC Will Win by Sean Reed
The Tar Heels are coming off losses in three of their last four ACC games. Consequently, the Tar Heels have had one of the hardest in-conference schedules and two of those past three losses have come against nationally ranked teams. They also lost a trap game against a very tough Pittsburgh Panthers squad only four days before the big Duke game.
I believe that they were preparing for the Duke game and just didn’t play with the right amount of intensity and passion against Pitt. UNC leads the all-time series against Duke 133-105. The Tar Heels have been beaten lately in the Duke series, which means that Roy Williams will have his team fired up for this matchup on the road. UNC has won the most regular season titles in the ACC with 29, and Duke is second with 19.
But, let’s not talk about the past, the present is what matters. UNC has a potential ACC Player of the Year candidate in junior guard Marcus Paige. He is an all-around scorer, but his numbers have declined this season. Paige is averaging 14 points, 4 assists, 3 rebounds, and 2 steals per game. A key player for the Duke game is sophomore big man Kennedy Meeks. He must be able to guard Okafor in the post and slow him down on offense. Also, Meeks needs to hold Okafor to only one shot, and not let him get offensive rebounds.
UNC has had key victories against Davidson, UCLA, Florida, and Louisville. Despite Duke being on a roll as of late, UNC should be able to compete throughout the game. Duke is bound to play bad one of these games, just like they did in their first meeting against Notre Dame this season. Duke wasn’t playing hard defense and they weren’t making their usual shots that game. Hopefully, UNC will have the same luck in their rivalry game against Duke tonight.
My prediction: The contest will be a low-scoring, defensive game, but UNC will get transition buckets and eventually win 56-52 in overtime.