Duke vs. UNC: Who has the edge?

jgiglio@newsobserver.comFebruary 13, 2013 

POINT GUARD: Marcus Paige vs. Quinn Cook

The education of Paige continues. North Carolina freshman point guard Paige didn’t have the foot speed to stay with Miami’s Shane Larkin. Cook is a better matchup for Paige, who has been asked to do a lot this season. The best thing Paige can do is get James Michael McAdoo, Reggie Bullock and P.J. Hairston going and not worry about his own shot.

Since an 0-of-4 effort from 3-point range against Wake Forest on Jan. 5, Cook has been hot at Cameron. He has made nine of his past 20 3-point attempts at home, including a 4-of-5 effort against N.C. State on Feb. 7. Duke, without Ryan Kelly, is at its best when Cook is on from 3.

Edge: Cook

SHOOTING GUARD: Dexter Strickland vs. Seth Curry

Curry is the definition of a senior taking ownership of a team. Despite chronic pain in his right shin, Curry has been a scoring machine in league play, with a team-best 17.4 points per game. He has had six 20-point games in ACC play and Duke is 5-1 in those games.

It has been a difficult senior season for Strickland, who would probably be better served playing the point or coming off the bench for Hairston. It’s easy to forget Strickland is coming off major knee surgery and he’s probably not going to be 100 percent at any point this season.

Edge: Curry

SMALL FORWARD: Reggie Bullock vs. Rasheed Sulaimon

Duke, version 2013, essentially traded Austin Rivers for Sulaimon, who is a better defender than Rivers and more of a complementary part on offense. As with Cook, when Sulaimon’s shot is on, Duke is really good.

Bullock could use a pep talk from Curry about taking control. When Bullock does, UNC is a different team. He has run too hot-and-cold for a team that needs him to be steady. He has All-ACC talent and this is the stage to prove it.

Edge: Bullock

POWER FORWARD: James Michael McAdoo vs. Amile Jefferson

Jefferson hasn’t been bad (7.0 points and 5.0 rebounds in six ACC starts) but he also hasn’t been Ryan Kelly, who has missed the past eight games with a foot injury.

It’s easy to see why NBA scouts love McAdoo. The thing about the NBA is they don’t really care if you don’t bring it the whole season – 82 games is a long time. But in college, UNC has needed McAdoo to be more, and 14.9 points per game with 8.2 rebounds is a lot, but not quite enough for this particular team. Still, the matchup is set up for a big night from McAdoo.

Edge: McAdoo

CENTER: Desmond Hubert vs. Mason Plumlee

Plumlee has scored 32 and 30 points in the past two games against in-state opponents. A third is in play for Wednesday night with Hubert or Brice Johnson defending him in the post.

If you’re looking for a difference between this UNC team and last year’s, the “5” on last year’s team averaged 13.7 points and 9.9 rebounds and led the ACC in blocked shots. The combination of Hubert, Johnson and Joel James (out with a concussion) averages 11.4 points and 9.2 rebounds.

Edge: Plumlee


The way Hairston has shot this season, it’s hard to believe he made only 27 percent of his 3-pointers last season. At times he has been UNC’s best scoring option. Roy Williams does a better job than fans are willing to give him credit for in using a lot of different parts.

Less has always been more for Mike Krzyzewski but it helps Duke when it gets serviceable minutes from guard Tyler Thornton and forward Josh Hairston.

Edge: UNC


What do you think Duke remembers from 2012? Rivers’ shot and stealing a win in Chapel Hill. UNC would love to return that favor, especially with very few people giving them a chance, particularly in light of the Tar Heels’ dismal performance at Miami on Saturday. Doubt has fueled some of the most memorable moments in this rivalry.

Still, Duke is unbeaten at home (12-0) for a reason and you know Krzyzewski will have his team motivated and prepared.

Edge: Duke

Giglio: 919-829-8938

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