When the Duke basketball team meets the North Carolina Tar Heels, the records and the statistics must go out the window for such a heated rivalry.
There isn’t much that gets Tobacco Road buzzing quite like the Duke Blue Devils and North Carolina Tar Heels meeting on the basketball court.
Last season one of the most anticipated games in the history of the series came to an abrupt halt after a minute following the shoe blowout of Zion Williamson. The No. 1 overall pick missed the finale of the regular season but returned for the matchup in the semifinals of the ACC Tournament in which Duke came away with a one-point victory.
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This season has the same feel of those games post-Zion since the Heels are having a tough season, to put it nicely.
North Carolina is sporting a 10-12 record on the season, 3-8 in ACC play, and Roy Williams‘ record of never having a losing season in his career as a head coach is in serious jeopardy. Williams is one of four active coaches around the country who have yet to have a losing season (Tom Izzo, Mark Few, and Mike Anderson).
The Tar Heels started the season at 5-0 but then dropped its semifinal game in the Battle 4 Atlantis. North Carolina followed that loss with a victory over the then No. 11 Oregon Ducks, but that would be the last happy moment of this season for Williams’ squad.
North Carolina returned home to face the then No. 6 Ohio State Buckeyes and got ran out of the Dean Dome, 74-49. That game was followed by a matchup in Charlottesville against the No. 5 Virginia Cavaliers which resulted in the second straight Tar Heel loss, 56-47.
While the losses certainly weren’t good, North Carolina lost its star player Cole Anthony due to an injury following the Virginia game.
Without Anthony, the Tar Heels went 4-7, including a five game losing streak in conference play, three of those losses coming at home and none played against an AP Top-25 team.
The four wins North Carolina recorded without Anthony came against UCLA, Yale, Miami (FL), and North Carolina State, but since the point guard’s return, the Tar Heels have lost two in a row.
The latest losses have come at home to Boston College in Anthony’s first game back and then on the road against the No. 8 Florida State Seminoles.
Despite playing in just 11 games this season, Cole Anthony is still the leading scorer for the North Carolina Tar Heels averaging 19.5 points, 6.4 rebounds, 3.5 assists, and 1.7 steals per game on 35.1 percent shooting from the field and 33.8 percent from 3-point range.
Injuries have been a common theme this season for North Carolina and the Tar Heels will be without Brandon Robinson who was injured in the loss to Boston College. The senior will be out for 2-4 weeks with an ankle injury.
As bad as this season has been for North Carolina, who will not be going to the NCAA Tournament unless they win the ACC Tournament, Saturday evening will be its National Championship to try and knock off the No. 7 Duke Blue Devils in front of its home crowd.
ESPN College GameDay will be in the Dean Dome on Saturday morning starting at 11:00am EST and tipoff between Duke and North Carolina will be shortly after 6:00pm EST and broadcasted on ESPN.
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