Duke > North Carolina


Duke is better than North Carolina.

Can it really be that simple? I’m about the give a lot of little details about why Duke prevailed. I’ll say something smart, maybe something clever, but it’s not really that important. The simple fact is, Duke is better than North Carolina.

With the game on the line, Duke’s leaders (particularly Jon Scheyer) took over, while North Carolina just looked lost at the end. There was one particular moment, with about 2:24 left on the clock and Duke pulling away. The Tar Heels needed a basket NOW. They took a shot, missed, but got a rebound. They took a quick shot, an open three and missed it, but got another rebound.

Then for whatever reason, the entire team got gun shy. Each player kept passing the ball. No one wanted to take a shot. About 17 seconds went by before Graves finally threw up an ugly three. He missed.

All wins are good and a win in Chapel Hill, no matter how bad the Carolina team is, is sweeeeet. Yet, in the grand scheme of things, this was still just a win over the 10th place team in the ACC. Let’s celebrate and get ready for a battle for first against Maryland.

Actually, wait. Let’s talk about this one for a bit.


Interesting stat that I probably only care about. You know Duke and Carolina rotate the home games, one year, the first game is at Duke, the next year the first home game is at North Carolina? Did you know that Duke has won six in a row (dating back to 1998-1999) at North Carolina when it was the first game? Sure, it’s not the same as winning four in a row at Durham, but still.

Duke again owned the final eight. This is something I’ve hit on all season long (let me show you because you know how much I like to brag about myself, I’m wicked smart).

From two weeks ago:

"Duke always seems to win the final eight minutes. This is so key and you can chalk it up to experience. No matter how bad they’ve played earlier, no matter what kind of run the opponent makes, Duke just seems to play great basketball at the end."

Tonight at the eight-minute mark, Duke and North Carolina were tied up at 45-45. In the final eight minutes, Duke beat North Carolina, 19-9.

You can chalk it up to experience and leadership. Those two things are what can make a bad first 28 minutes simply disappear. If the game is close or if Duke has a slight lead, you can count on them to make the plays that need to happen.

Lots of blocked shots means lots of offensive rebound opportunities. It always amazes me that announcers never talk about this. Tonight, Carolina was having a block party. In fact, they swatted away a dozen tonight. Blocks are sexy, they’re like a dunk, yet what often gets forgotten is two facts (only one resonates in tonight’s game).

1) Block shots often don’t mean possession change. How many times have you see a big man block a shot as hard as he can sending the ball into the stands, thus allowing the opponent keep the ball? Now having said that, Carolina did an excellent job of keeping their blocks in bounds tonight, so this doesn’t apply to them. However, number two was their issue.

2) It’s one thing if you have one stunning shot blocker (just look at every big man Connecticut has had the past 10 years), it’s another when it has to be a group effort. Tonight, Carolina went after Duke’s shots as a team, meaning when a Duke player went into the lane, two, sometimes three Tar Heels went up for the block. Like we said, they got a dozen of them, that’s a lot. However, they also missed a bunch and what happens when three guys go up for a block and don’t get it? It leaves another Duke player open for an easy offensive rebound.

I counted at least eight times where a Duke player was able to grab a rebound because his defender was off trying to block the shot.In fact, Duke had 22 offensive rebounds overall.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not against blocks. It can be a game changer especially if the opponent starts to get gun shy. There’s just a difference between a team with a single great shot blocker and the teams that have multiple defenders leave their player to block a shot.

Oh and for the record, about four of those “blocks” should have been called goal tending.

Duke adjusted well after the first-half block party. Like I already said, Carolina blocked 12 of Duke’s shots, but ten of those came in the first half. In the second half, Duke adjusted and it paid off. Again, I’m going to take complete credit.

Here was my tweet late in the first half.

"Hey Devils, I have a simple suggestion…pull up for mid-range jumpers."

Obviously, Nolan Smith read my twitter feed at halftime because after an 0-8 first half, Nolan’s first two shots in the second half were both pull up mid-range jumpers (Note: Nolan Smith has no clue what Big Duke Balls is and he doesn’t read my tweets).

Secondly, because of Thomas’ injury and Zoubeks’ foul trouble, Duke went small, moving Singler to the four-spot. At that point, against a bigger man, Singler was able to use his quickness and get to the basket using better angles. The Carolina big men were reaching, but they couldn’t get to it.

Duke becoming the ugly duckling of college basketball. Let’s just call it what it is. This isn’t pretty basketball. Duke won despite shooting only 32% from the floor. Inside the paint, they only hit 13-51 (25%). It certainly helps when you only turn the ball over eight times. Scheyer in fact turned it over zero times.

Andre Dawkins gets 10 minutes on the floor. Even though he didn’t really do much, it’s nice to see him out there. The more confidence Coach feels in him, the better he’ll get. Tonight, he pretty much just stood at the three-point line. He took one bad shot and turned it over, although he did get one nice defensive rebound.

I’m not the coach, so I don’t know what he’s being told to do, but would he be more productive running around, particularly on the back side. Sure he’s not going to take a lot of shots, but at the very least, force his defender to defend and maybe during all the motion, he helps open someone else up. Just saying.

Speaking of minutes, guess which big man played the most minutes. If you said Mason Plumlee, give yourself a cookie. Because of Lance Thomas’ injury, Mason got 27 minutes on the floor today. He had a solid outing, hitting 3-4, grabbing nine rebounds. He look particularly comfortable when Duke went smaller. With Dawkins on the floor and Singler moved to the 4-spot, Plumlee was able to take care of the middle.

So how hurt is Lance Thomas? It was bound to happen at some point, since Duke has been pretty lucky with injuries so far. The problem is, Thomas is a glue guy and we can’t afford to have him out for too long.

Word is, the injury is bad. However, we will not know how bad until tomorrow at the earliest. A huge blow if Lance is going to miss a lot of time (if not the whole season). You never want to hurt a knee. Well, you wanted to see more Mason and this injury is going to make that happen.

As for the Tar Heels, sorry Carolina fans, but this season is almost over. The fact is, Carolina simply doesn’t have ACC-quality guards. Graves was decent tonight, but this was suppose to be a team with a strong interior. Davis and Thompson took a total of seven shots in the first half (hitting only two). For the game, the pair only took 11 shots.Duke’s two best shooters (Singler and Scheyer)? They took 38 shots.

Great players need to be taking the shots. Not Larry Drew who led the team with 15 shots (hitting four).

Secondly, the Tar Heels are just sloppy. How many times did a Carolina player fumble away a ball in their hands? Too many to count. They only turned the ball over 12 times, but I would say 8 or 9 of those were them just fumbling the ball away.

Enjoy the NIT, Tar Heels.