UNC at Duke: The preview

acarter@newsobserver.comFebruary 13, 2013 

— Welcome to game day, folks. North Carolina later today will bus out to Durham, to Duke’s Cameron Indoor Stadium, for the latest installment of the North Carolina-Duke rivalry.

Will anything happen tonight that will become a part of the lore of this series? Stay tuned …

In the meantime, some things to know …

North Carolina (16-7, 6-4) at No. 2 Duke (21-2, 8-2)

When: 9 p.m.

Where: Cameron Indoor Stadium, Durham

TV/radio: ESPN/106.1-WRDU

Projected starting lineups

Duke

F Mason Plumlee 18.2 ppg, 10.7 rpg

F Amile Jefferson 4.6 ppg, 3.2 rpg

G Rasheed Sulaimon 11.4 ppg, 3.4 rpg

G Seth Curry 16.8 ppg, 2.2 rpg

G Quinn Cook 11.8 ppg, 6 apg

North Carolina

F Desmond Hubert 1.4 ppg, 2.1 rpg

F James Michael McAdoo 14.9 ppg, 8.2 rpg

G Reggie Bullock 14 ppg, 5.6 rpg

G Dexter Strickland 7.4 ppg, 4 rpg

G Marcus Paige 7.1 ppg, 4.5 apg

Player to watch

James Michael McAdoo, sophomore North Carolina

After two of his best games of the season, McAdoo had one of his worst on Saturday at Miami. He finished with just six points, made three of his 12 shots from the field and wasn’t much of a factor on either end against the Hurricanes’ talented frontcourt. The Tar Heels will need McAdoo to be at his best tonight against Duke. Offensively, he and Reggie Bullock will have to carry UNC. Defensively, he’ll play a role in guarding Duke’s Mason Plumlee, who has emerged as the favorite to earn ACC Player of the Year honors.

Observations:

--UNC will be without freshman forward Joel James, who suffered a concussion last week during the Heels’ victory against Wake Forest. Doctors didn’t diagnose James with the concussion until after UNC’s loss at Miami. James’ absence is a defensive blow most of all, given that he likely would have helped guard Plumlee on the interior.

--Slow starts doomed the Tar Heels in recent losses at N.C. State and Miami. The Tar Heels struggled for much of the first 25 minutes at N.C. State, which eventually led UNC by 28 points before the Heels rallied. At Miami, UNC trailed 9-0 and never recovered. The Heels must keep pace early at Duke.

--UNC coach Roy Williams earlier this week attributed some of UNC’s road woes to youth and inexperience. He said UNC’s younger players haven’t handled well the pressure that comes with playing in hostile road environments.

--An unranked UNC team hasn’t won at Cameron Indoor Stadium since March 4, 1990. Unranked UNC teams are 2-9 at Cameron, with the other victory coming in 1965. The game tonight is the 150th consecutive between Duke and UNC in which at least one team has been ranked. That streak dates to Feb. 25 1955.

MATCHUPS (by Joe Giglio)

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

BENCH

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

INTANGIBLES

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

FOUR FACTORS

Duke has the edge in three out of the four: shooting, turnover rate and getting to the free throw line. UNC has done a better job of creating second-chance opportunities through offensive rebounding.

College Basketball

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More stats at StatSheet.com

A little more than six hours away now …

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