Duke Basketball: Blue Devils, Heels Set to Meet in Brooklyn Again

DURHAM, NC - MARCH 03: Marvin Bagley III
DURHAM, NC - MARCH 03: Marvin Bagley III /

Déjà vu? With the season series tied at 1, Duke and North Carolina will once again meet in the ACC Tournament Semifinals.

The Blue Devils have won their only game in Brooklyn, thumping Notre Dame 88-70. North Carolina has played two games in Brooklyn, winning both by a combined 36 points.

Despite falling into a 14-0 hole last night, the Heels dug out of it due to the play of Theo Pinson. After playing 30 minutes the previous night against Syracuse, Pinson dropped 25 points on 9-12 shooting in 35 minutes.

The rest of the Tar Heels were awful last night, specifically Luke Maye who was 1-15 from the floor, only scoring 2 points, but he did manage to pull down 13 boards.

Every Tar Heel starter has played a minimum of 30 minutes on back to back nights, so tired legs could be a factor for North Carolina.

The Blue Devils were led by the amazing heroics of Marvin Bagley III who exploded for 33 points and 17 rebounds.

Grayson Allen was not to be forgotten in this game either. After 17 first-half points, Allen cooled off a bit in the second half, but still finished with 23 points on 7-10 shooting.

Trevon Duval was up and down with 6 turnovers, but his 11 assists were the version of him that Duke needs all the time. When Duval is able to drive baseline or into the paint and then kick the ball out to Allen or Gary Trent Jr. the Blue Devils are very tough to stop.

After early foul trouble that haunted Wendell Carter Jr. all game, Marques Bolden stepped in and excelled for Duke. He added 8 points and 7 rebounds. The turnaround in Bolden is nothing short of remarkable, he has emerged as a true 6th man for Duke.

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Notre Dame had success against the Duke zone getting the ball to the baseline and slipping the ball around the paint defender for an easy bucket.

Notre Dame has the bigs, Martinas Geben and Bonzie Colson, to do this, but North Carolina? Not so much.

Like last Saturday, I’d imagine Theo Pinson to be at the foul line, in the middle of the Duke zone, and North Carolina to run their offense through him.

One name to watch for North Carolina is Kenny Williams. Williams lit Duke up in Chapel Hill and had many open looks from the corner in Durham.

Whether is Williams, Pinson, Joel Berry, or Cam Johnson, Duke must be able to slide down and defend the corner three’s.

Health is a factor for both teams coming into this game. Duke may not have Wendell Carter Jr. as Coach K said did not practice all week with a foot injury. Carter only logged 17 minutes last night due to foul trouble and his foot. When speaking about his availability for tonight, K said: “we’ll see”.

As for the Tar Heels, Joel Berry and Cam Johnson both went down last night with ankle and hip injuries, respectively. Both returned to the game, but not after rolling around on the court in pain. I expect both to play tonight without any restrictions, but it is something to keep an eye on.

When Duke plays the way they did in the second half Saturday against North Carolina and against Notre Dame, they are the best team in the country. The Blue Devils seem to be peaking at the right time, and that is bad news for the rest of the country.

With the possible factor of tired legs for North Carolina and the epic of performances of Bagley and Allen last night, I think the Blue Devils will be on their way to back to back ACC Tournament Finals.

Prediction: Duke 79 North Carolina 70