Mar 9, 2013; Chapel Hill, NC, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels guard Marcus Paige (5) dribbles as Duke Blue Devils guard Quinn Cook (2) defends in the second half. The Blue Devils defeated the Tar Heels 69-53 at the Dean E. Smith Center. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Duke Basketball vs. North Carolina Preview

In arguably the biggest rivalry in sports, Duke won both games last season. Duke will be ranked higher in most preseason polls and they have the possibility to win both again. They both have similarly made teams, but Duke’s looks to be the more talented team. UNC is unable to capitalize on Duke’s main weakness at center. James McAdoo is a talented player, but he is the only great big for UNC. As talented as Duke is, UNC still has a very talented team. This will definitely be two close, hard fought games.
*All stats are from last season unless stated otherwise.
Point Guard
•Duke: Quinn Cook (Jr) 11.7 ppg, 5.3 apg, 3.8 rpg, 1.4 spg, at Duke.
•UNC: Marcus Paige (Soph) 8.2 ppg, 4.6 apg, 2.7 rpg, 1.4 spg, at UNC.
Both players are good passers, but Cook has the advantage due to his much better scoring ability. Paige was a good point guard for last years team but may not fit as well this season. Paige was required to be a passer last year, but may be counted on to score more this season, which is not his true skill. Quinn Cook is just as good at passing, while having a much better ability to score. Cook has much more confidence attacking the rim and finishing. That will play into Duke’s favor and Cook should be able to take advantage. Also if Cook can improve his defense from last season and Duke can pressure Paige, Paige could definitely get rattled. An effective Duke press could greatly move the game in Duke’s favor and blow the game open. Quinn Cook is the better player, but it will be up to him to capitalize.
•Advantage: Duke
Shooting Guard
•Duke: Rasheed Sulaimon (Soph) 11.6 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 1.9 apg, at Duke.
•UNC: Leslie McDonald (Senior) 7.2 ppg, 2.1 rpg, 1.2 apg, at UNC.
Rasheed Sulaimon is the the better player in this match up, but it isn’t by as much as people think. Leslie McDonald was overlooked last season, due to UNC’s other guards; PJ Hairston, Reggie Bullock, and Dexter Strickland. Even though he was stuck behind these players, he was able to score over seven points per game in limited minutes. Leslie McDonald is under rated, but he just is not as good as Rasheed Sulaimon. They have similar games, but Sulaimon just has more talent. Sulaimon should be able to pressure McDonald in similar ways to Cook. If both Duke players can succeed in pressuring in the back court, it could create a huge advantage for Duke. More likely, the back court match ups will be some what close but Duke will definitely have the advantage.
•Advantage: Duke
Small Forward
•Duke: Rodney Hood (Soph) 10.3 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 2.0 apg, at Mississippi State 2011-12.
•UNC: PJ Hairston (Jr) 14.6 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 1.4 apg, at UNC.
Unlike the back court, the front court match ups will be much closer, beginning with PJ Hairston against Rodney Hood. Sporting News lists them as their number two and three best small forwards respectively in all of college basketball. There will not be a lot of defense between these two, as both can attack each other in different ways. With Hood’s height and driving ability will be extremely difficult for Hairston to guard. Hairston is used to playing taller players, but very few are as talented athletically as Hood. On offense, Hairston’s shooting ability will be extremely difficult to guard. If Hood relaxes or helps off Hairston at all, Hairston will hit a three. Although I expect Hairston to have the slight advantage, both players will score around 15 points and for advantage to be minimal. It will be a very interesting match up to see if Sporting News rankings were correct.
•Advantage: UNC
Power Forward
•Duke: Jabari Parker (Fresh) 18.4 ppg, 10.4 rpg, 2.7 apg, 2.1 bpg, 1.9 spg, at Simeon High School.
•James McAdoo (Jr) 14.4 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 1.5 spg, at UNC
James McAdoo is the much more experienced player, but he will have no way to stop Parker offensively. McAdoo does have an inch advantage on, but that will not make a huge difference. McAdoo is a much improved post player, and will be able to score against him in the post a lot. Luckily for Parker, if he struggles covering McAdoo, Amile Jefferson or Marshall Plumlee will be able to guard him at times. McAdoo does not have this luxury. None of UNC’s bigs can cover a wing player, so McAdoo will be forced to cover Parker or Hood. Both players are extremely talented, but Parker will have more help in guarding McAdoo than McAdoo covering Parker. This is a huge advantage for Parker and will allow him to have the edge in this match up.
•Advantage: Duke
Center
•Duke: Amile Jefferson (Soph) 4.0 ppg, 2.9 rpg, at Duke.
•UNC: Brice Johnson (Soph) 5.4 ppg, 3.2 rpg, at UNC.
This match up features two players with minimal roles last season, who won’t be expected to score. The winner of this match up will likely be the player with the most rebounds. Brice Johnson did this better last season, leading me to believe he will win this match up. Johnson will be required to rebound, but will also be forced to play a lot of help defense. Jefferson will not create offense by himself, but Johnson needs to make it difficult for Duke’s guards and wings to finish at the rim. UNC has a lot of bigs, so Johnson can be aggressive and make Duke earn their points at the line. Jefferson will likely split his time in this game guarding Johnson and McAdoo. He can help off of Johnson, but against McAdoo, he will need to work hard as a post defender. Their impact will not be noticed in the box score, but they will both make impacts, Johnson’s just being slightly more important.
•Advantage: UNC
Bench
•Duke:
Tyler Thorton (Senior) 3.6 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 2.2 apg, 1.3 spg, at Duke.
Andre Dawkins (Senior) 8.4 ppg, 2.1 apg, at Duke 2011-12.
Marshall Plumlee (Soph) 0.1 ppg, 0.6 rpg, at Duke.
•UNC:
JP Tokoto (Soph) 2.6 ppg, 1.7 rpg, at UNC.
Joel James (Soph) 2.3 ppg, 2.4 rpg, at UNC.
Jackson Simmons (Jr) 1.8 ppg, 1.7 rpg, at UNC.
This is a huge edge for Duke because UNC does not have the experienced and proven players that Duke has on their bench. Tyler Thorton and Andre Dawkins’ experience in this match up is a huge advantage for them. They will not be intimidated by the spotlight, and will have huge impacts. Thorton will add even more defensive pressure to the UNC back court and Dawkins can keep up with a potential PJ Hairston explosion. No one on UNC’s bench has the talent or proven ability to equal the impact of Thorton or Dawkins. Their plethora of bigs will allow them to throw many different bigs in the paint. This will help but will not make a significant impact. Duke definitely has the edge on the bench, and I don’t believe it’s even close.
•Advantage: Duke
Who Will Win?
•Duke in a sweep
At Cameron Indoor Stadium, I think Duke wins comfortably. UNC, especially their bench, does not have the experience at Cameron to win the game. McAdoo and Hairston will keep it close for a while, but I think Duke definitely pulls away. Duke’s consistent pressure attacking the rim will be too much for UNC in that tough environment. At UNC, I expect it to be a much closer game that Duke will still win. UNC will be more comfortable at home, but this Duke team is just to talented for UNC. UNC is a very good team, but they will not be able to handle Duke’s ability to crash the rim. With Duke sweeping UNC, I expect them to win the ACC.
Coming this weekend, I will be write a quick article about Sporting News college basketball position rankings. Rasheed Sulaimon was ranked three for shooting guards, Rodney Hood was ranked three for small forwards and Jabari Parker was ranked two for power forwards. Sporting News clearly thinks Duke will be a great team next season based on these rankings.

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