No.1 Duke and No. 8 North Carolina tip off tonight in Cameron Indoor Stadium at 9 p.m. (EST) on ESPN (or stream it here) in the 249th edition of one of college sports’ best rivalries. Here’s a look at what’s at stake and who some of the key players are.
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Duke’s projected starting lineup
G — Tre Jones (Fr.): 6-2, 183 pounds; 8.7 points, 3.5 rebounds, 5.4 assists per game
F — Zion Williamson (Fr.): 6-7, 285 pounds; 22.4 points, 9.2 rebounds, 2.2 assists per game
F — Cam Reddish (Fr.): 6-8, 218 pounds; 13.8 points, 3.5 rebounds, 2.2 assists per game
F — RJ Barrett (Fr.): 6-7, 202 pounds; 22.7 points, 7.4 rebounds, 4.0 assists per game
C — Marques Bolden (Jr.); 6-11, 250 pounds; 5.7 points, 4.7 rebounds, 0.6 assists per game
North Carolina’s projected starting lineup
G — Cameron Johnson (Gr.): 6-9, 210 pounds; 16.3 points, 5.4 rebounds, 2.2 assists per game
G — Coby White (Fr.): 6-5, 185 pounds; 15.7 points, 3.3 rebounds, 4.3 assists per game
G — Kenny Williams (Sr.): 6-4, 185 pounds; 8.9 points, 3.3 rebounds, 3.7 assists per game
F — Luke Maye (Sr.): 6-8, 240 pounds; 14.5 points, 9.6 rebounds, 2.1 assists per game
F — Garrison Brooks (So.): 6-9, 230 pounds; 8.2 points, 6.1 rebounds, 1.5 assists per game
When Duke has the ball
Expect one of the Blue Devils’ four star freshmen to take the shot. Jones, Williamson, Reddish and Barrett have combined to take just more than 77 percent of Duke’s shots so far this season. Barrett accounts for nearly 30 percent himself. And keep an eye on Reddish and Barrett on the perimeter. Close to two-thirds of Reddish’s shots have been 3s and more than a third of Barrett’s have followed suit.
Duke (23-2, 11-1 in ACC) averages 86.4 points per game, which in part is why it leads its conference, with a 20.3 average scoring margin, and has hit 48.6 percent of its shots from the field. If the Blue Devils don’t turn the ball over, they’re second in the ACC in turnover margin, and hit 3s, which they only does a less than stellar 31.3 percent of the time, watch out. The latter is key because in a 95-91 loss against Syracuse in mid-January Duke shot just 9-of-43 on 3s.
PREVIEW: Predicting Duke vs. North Carolina
Don’t sleep on junior forward Jack White or Bolden, either. White has hit 17-of-21 free throws at an 81-percent clip for a team that shoots the second-most free throws in the ACC yet owns the second-worst percentage at the line. In the final few minutes, whether or not that trend holds could be the difference in deciding if Duke wins its 112th game against UNC.
When North Carolina has the ball
Expect the three-pronged attack of Johnson, White and Maye to attempt to wear out Duke’s defense. The trio combine for just more than 51 percent of the Tar Heels’ shots this season and each, led by Johnson, has shown an ability to hit 3s. Williams, Brooks and freshman forward Nassir Little will also be players to watch. They’ve helped ensure the Tar Heels can boast of six different players who average more than eight points per game.
North Carolina (20-5, 10-2 in ACC) averages a conference-best 87.5 points per game and has hit 47.5 percent of its shots. The Tar Heels don’t get to the free-throw line as often as the Blue Devils but they do shoot much better, 74.2 percent compared to 68.3 percent, and aren’t as predictable as to who might be trying to get there.
Coach Roy Williams is relying on a much more experienced roster as he tries for UNC’s 138th win in the series against Duke. And he’ll need it on the road when he faces Mike Krzyzewski.
The history of Duke vs. North Carolina
Jan. 24, 1920 — UNC 38, Duke 25
UNC leads 137-111
Longest win streak:
UNC — 16 (1921-28)