Duke

Duke vs. UNC: How much does depth matter?

Laura Keeley and Andrew Carter preview the Duke-Carolina game

News & Observer sports writers Laura Keeley and Andrew Carter preview the Duke Blue Devils trip to face the University of North Carolina Tar Heels in the Smith Center in Chapel Hill, NC.
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News & Observer sports writers Laura Keeley and Andrew Carter preview the Duke Blue Devils trip to face the University of North Carolina Tar Heels in the Smith Center in Chapel Hill, NC.

As everyone waits for round one of Duke-North Carolina to tip off tonight at 9 p.m., here is a little food for thought:

One of the advantages UNC has over Duke tonight is the number of players the Tar Heels can run out on the court. UNC goes eight, nine, even 10 players deep sometimes. Duke, meanwhile, typically plays six guys (though in an ideal world, Chase Jeter can give the Blue Devils his about 4.5 minutes per game average in ACC play tonight).

I think depth can be one of the most overrated things in college basketball on a game day.

Notre Dame coach Mike Brey

Expect UNC coach Roy Williams to encourage his Tar Heels, who already play at the ACC’s fastest pace, to push the tempo as much as they can in attempts to wear down the Blue Devils. In theory, this makes sense, as UNC’s fresh legs would seemingly prevail in a basketball game played at a sprint pace. But some coaches value depth more than others.

“I think depth can be one of the most overrated things in college basketball on a game day,” Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said.

Brey’s opinion is especially noteworthy in this case because of his connection to Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski. Brey was a Duke assistant for eight season, from 1987-95. And he seems to share his former boss’s opinion on this topic. Krzyzewski’s philosophy is to play his best players as much as possible. That’s what Brey does, too.

“I get analyzed the same way that guy in Durham does with the number of guys we play,” Brey said. “Our run last year (to the ACC championship and Elite Eight), we played six.

“Guys are in great shape, they can play, there is enough breaks during a game.”

Adrenaline helps, too, and that won’t be in short supply tonight.

Depth does come in handy to make competitive practices, and undoubtedly Krzyzewski wishes he had more bodies for that purpose. But tonight in Chapel Hill, he’ll be plenty comfortable running with the six guys he has.

Laura Keeley: 919-829-4556, @laurakeeley

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