Duke basketball in awkward position entering regular season finale

Duke basketball (Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports)
Duke basketball (Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports) /

Duke basketball is an awkward position entering the final game of the regular season. 

It’s the traditional regular season finale between the Duke basketball program and the North Carolina Tar Heels (15-9, 9-6 ACC), but the Blue Devils (11-10, 9-8 ACC) are in an awkward position.

After playing its way back into NCAA Tournament consideration, two consecutive losses to bubble teams (vs. Louisville, at Georgia Tech) puts Duke back in an unfamiliar position of needing to do a lot of work with not many games left.

The Blue Devils only have two guaranteed games left, Saturday night against the Tar Heels and one in the ACC Tournament.

Some NCAA Tournament experts say that Duke must win the conference tournament in order to make the Big Dance, and others say a win over North Carolina and two victories in Greensboro could get the Blue Devils in.

So that puts Mike Krzyzewski’s team in an awkward situation.

Yes, Saturday’s game against North Carolina is important, but Duke certainly doesn’t have a solid resume or good metrics, and a victory over the Tar Heels could knock Roy Williams’ team closer to the cut line while pushing Duke closer to the bubble.

Duke basketball needs freshmen to step up

North Carolina came into Cameron Indoor Stadium and defeated Duke in their first matchup, 91-87, but the Blue Devils have transformed with the subtraction of a player and the addition of Mark Williams into a more prominent role.

Henry Coleman played important minutes for the Blue Devils in the first matchup with the Tar Heels, and Williams will have to do the same against the experienced and physical frontcourt of the Tar Heels with Armando Bacot, Garrison Brooks, Day’Ron Sharpe, and Walker Kessler.

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Matthew Hurt has struggled against the size and length in his three career games against the Tar Heels, scoring just seven total points, and the Blue Devils stand very little chance of winning if their best player doesn’t produce.

A limited amount of fans will be in the building when the ball is tipped at 6:00pm EST (ESPN) in the Dean Dome, and it will take an all-around excellent performance from the Blue Devils to grab a victory.

PREDICTION: North Carolina 82, Duke 76 

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