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A lot more was expected to be on the line for this game when the schedule was set, but with Virginia already winning the ACC, these teams are just playing for a better seed in the conference tournament. And of course, bragging rights.
North Carolina took the last meeting two weeks ago using a big 44-point second half en route to a 74-66 win. Can the Tar Heels pull off another upset, this time on the road?
UNC is on a 12-game winning streak and would like to extend that into the conference tourney and the NCAA tourney. However, this game will likely be their toughest test in their past 12 games. While winning their last few games, the Heels haven't looked the greatest, beating NC State in overtime, Virginia Tech by four points and Notre Dame at home by two.
Of course, none of those games were as bad as Duke losing to Wake Forest on Wednesday. The Blue Devils had a seven-point lead only to give up 17 straight points to the Demon Deacons and ended up losing to one of the worst teams in the conference. Whether they were looking ahead or just playing bad, the Blue Devils may have lost a for-sure No. 2 seed with that loss. A win here and a deep ACC tourney run could erase memories of that game.
In the first meeting between these teams, Duke was too inconsistent to pull out the win, which seems to be the case in most of their losses this year. They shot 5-of-22 from three and only made seven free throws. On the other end, North Carolina dominated the boards and made 20 free throws, which was the difference maker.
James Michael McAdoo didn't have that great of a game, yet still was a factor with 10 points and 10 boards. Surprisingly, it was the UNC backcourt that dominated with Marcus Paige and Leslie McDonald combining for 34 points. Duke got pretty good games from Rodney Hood, Jabari Parker and Quinn Cook (50 combined points), but the rest of the team shot 6-of-21 from the field. Five of Duke's players also had at least four fouls.
For the Blue Devils to win this one, they'll obviously have to shoot better, but need guys like Amile Jefferson and Marshall Plumlee to rebound and defend better. They can't survive solely on shooting from guys on the outside and Parker can't do it all for the team down low.
The Tar Heels will need to have another solid defensive performance and keep the game close in the first half, much like they did in the first game. If they let it slip early, it will be hard to come back as they don't have great shooters. Paige and McDonald have the size and skill to dominate the Duke guards again, but McAdoo will be the x-factor in the middle. If he can stay out of foul trouble and be a consistent force in the paint, this will be a good game.
Duke has the edge, especially at home, but if the Tar Heels continue their great play and limit the Blue Devils' easy opportunities, it'll be a close one.
Predicted Score Duke 82 NC 70
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