Battle of the Blues

No. 5 UNC and No. 20 Duke will be adding another chapter to their historic rivalry Wednesday night. Carolina leads the all-time series 133 to 107, but Duke has won seven of the last nine.

UNC comes into this game after a tough road trip. Before last game, Carolina lost two out of their last three and barely escaped against Boston College, one of the worst teams in the country. However, the Heels bounced back last game in a blowout win against Pittsburgh at home.

Duke is riding a four game win streak that features two straight wins against ranked opponents.

Carolina has not lost at home all year, and four of Duke’s six losses have come away from home. KenPom projections predict Carolina to win 86-80.

Key Matchups

This matchup features two of the top three ranked teams in offensive efficiency in the ACC. Duke sits at second with Carolina behind them in third.

Duke Three Point Shooters

North Carolina has the best defense against shots inside the arc in the ACC, but this shouldn’t bother Duke. Not only are they the best two point shooting team in the ACC, but they also lead the conference in three point shooting percentage.

UNC may be able to stop the Blue Devils inside, but Duke features three players who rank in the top 10 in the ACC for three point shot percentage. Matt Jones, Brandon Ingram and Grayson Allen all shoot better than 40 percent from beyond the arc.

But, Carolina has shown they can limit explosive superstars. The Heels held NC State guard Anthony Cat Barber to his lowest point total all year, but he only attempted two three pointers.

On the flip side, Carolina has shown weakness to talented players who shoot the three well and with high volume. Boston College’s Eli Carter averaged 22.5 points per game against Carolina this year and shot 38 percent from deep on 21 attempts.

If Carolina cannot shut down Grayson Allen, Brandon Ingram and Duke’s other three point shooters, it could be a long day for the Heels.

Marshall Plumlee

Carolina is a great rebounding team, but in their last three losses, they have given up 17 offensive rebounds per game.

This opens the door for Marshall Plumlee.

Marshall Plumlee (4)

Marshall Plumlee (40)

Plumlee is one of the best offensive rebounders in the ACC. In conference play, he ranks third in offensive rebounding percentage behind Charles Mitchell of Georgia Tech, and Tyler Roberson of Syracuse, according to Kenpom.com.

Carolina beat Georgia Tech and Syracuse and limited Roberson and Mitchell to only four offensive rebounds total.

On the other side, Notre Dame forwards Bonzie Colson and Zach Auguste rank fourth and fifth in the ACC in offensive rebounding percentage.

Colson and Auguste racked up 10 offensive rebounds and handed the Heels their most recent loss.

Limiting Marshall Plumlee on the offensive boards will be a major key to Carolina’s success.

Carolina Bigs

On the other side of the ball, Carolina will look to exploit the lack of depth in the Duke front court.

Marshall Plumlee is a great rebounder, but Carolina as a whole has a clear advantage inside.

Since ACC play began, UNC, led by Isaiah Hicks and Brice Johnson, has been the best offensive rebounding team and Duke has allowed the second highest offensive rebound percentage.

Isaiah Hicks (4) and Brice Johnson (

Isaiah Hicks (4) and Brice Johnson (11)

The D1 average for offensive rebounding percentage is around 30% and Duke normally allows offensive rebounds about 34 percent of the time, according to Kenpom.com.

But in Duke’s six losses, opponents have averaged an offensive rebounding percentage around 40 percent.

If Carolina can take advantage of this mismatch, they will have a plethora of second chance opportunities.

 

Prediction

Carolina is clearly the more talented team this year, but they have under-performed lately.

Carolina is rock solid at home and Duke has shown they can be shaky away from Cameron Indoor giving Carolina a distinct advantage. Duke’s two best true road wins are against Georgia Tech and NC State who are both just 13-12 on the year.

Carolina averages 41.2 points in the paint per game, the most among major conference teams. Duke allows 36.1 points per game in the paint, the third most among major conference teams, according to ESPN Stats & Info.

Carolina big men should dominate inside, giving UNC the necessary edge to secure their first victory against Duke in almost two years.

Interesting Notables

Joel Berry has scored in single digits 5 times this year and Carolina has lost 4 of those games.

Just six players have played more than 10 minutes in any of Duke’s last 13 games.

Eight players played more than 10 minutes in Carolina’s last game alone.

 

About Jarrett Corder

My name is Jarrett Corder and I'm a sophomore at University of North Carolina Chapel Hill majoring in broadcast journalism and minoring in history. I am also a reporter and producer for Sports Xtra, an on-campus Carolina sports show. I have a passion for all sports, especially all things Carolina blue.

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