College Basketball Pick
It wasn’t long ago that Duke was just 4-4 in ACC play and out of the Top 25. Now, the Blue Devils are on a Four-Game winning streak and have a chance to make real waves at Chapel Hill this Wednesday. North Carolina is still the top team in the Conference and the team to beat.
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The biggest story line in this Game might be Duke freshman Brandon Ingram, who was expected by many to play at North Carolina. Instead, Ingram has become a focal point in a Blue Devils team that lacks depth without Amile Jefferson. They usually play six guys each night, which could ultimately cost them in postseason Tournaments if Jefferson doesn’t return. Duke’s defense has been a factor for winning Four straight Games, but three of those have come at home. Winning in Chapel Hill is another test in itself.
North Carolina has Four losses on the year, all of them coming on the road. The Heels have had problems here and there at home, but still haven’t lost. They have won Four straight home Games by double digits, including the most recent 21-point bashing of a solid Pittsburgh team. It’ll take a monumental effort by Duke to win on the road in this one.
Duke’s first problem will be dealing with UNC’s size, which is an issue for most teams. The duo of Brice Johnson and Kennedy Meeks down low is a handful, and Duke definitely doesn’t have the size to deal with that. Johnson averages 16 points and 10 boards, while Meeks pushes 265 pounds. Because of that, the Blue Devils will likely play a lot of zone in this Game. That means they’ll need to do some boxing out because otherwise they’ll get killed on the boards. Marshall Plumlee has put in some big Games this year, while Ingram isn’t really a post defender due to his frame.
But on the other end, UNC will have trouble dealing with Ingram, who can stretch the floor with his shooting. Johnson will likely match up with him and he isn’t used to defending the perimeter. As for UNC on the perimeter, Justin Jackson is a similar player to Ingram, and it wouldn’t be surprising if they guarded each other. Although that would leave Brice Johnson on Matt Jones.
Senior point guard Marcus Paige still hasn’t reached previous levels of points or shooting and that may end up deciding the Tar Heels’ fate, but he’s still productive. Joel Berry has picked up most of Paige’s slack, though, as well as Nate Britt off the bench.
To have a chance, the Blue Devils will need a big Game out of at least one of their guards. Whether that’s Grayson Allen, Matt Jones or LUke Kennard. That’s usually how they win, with Ingram seemingly always a factor. There isn’t a major advantage in either backcOurt, but North Carolina has more depth, and that will shine through at some point, especially with how Duke is going to have to defend the big bodies down low.
The Tar Heels may not be as good as everyone made them out to be early on, but their size will be huge in this Game. Duke’s only chance is if Allen or Kennard gets hot from deep to keep the Blue Devils around.
Predicted Score- Duke 86 North Carolina 85