The two teams split their regular-season matchups with the Blue Devils routing Carolina in Chapel Hill and the Tar Heels getting revenge in coach Mike Krzyzewski’s final game at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
UNC’s upset victory on March 5 swung the Heels’ season and stunned Duke. Three things, in particular, stuck out in Carolina’s shocking win.
Could those same three things affect one of the most epic games in college basketball history?
UNC’s offensive clinic
Carolina shot 59% from the field in the second half of the shocker that saw the Tar Heels pull away in the final minutes for a 94-81 win.
Duke, meanwhile, shot 42% after halftime.
To keep with the theme, guard Caleb Love — who has exploded onto the national scene during March Madness — started 0-of-8 but scored 15 of his 22 points in the final 20 minutes.
And all four have carried that offensive momentum into the tournament.
If the Tar Heels score the way they did against the Blue Devils in their upset victory — and the way they have through the first four rounds — another upset is well within UNC’s grasp.
The Mark Williams-Armando Bacot battle
Bacot had 23 points, seven rebounds, and two blocks in the game at Cameron Indoor. He shot 10-of-11 from the field.
Duke sophomore big man Mark Williams didn’t have a bad game either. He was the Devils’ second-leading scorer and posted a double-double with 16 points and 13 rebounds.
Bacot is averaging 16.5 points and 15.8 rebounds per game in the tournament, while Duke’s big man is putting up 14.5 points and 8.8 rebounds and adding four blocks a night.
The Blue Devils need Williams to battle, and at least keep in check, UNC’s 6-foot-10, 240-pound center.
Williams has shown he’s capable of doing it in spurts. But he’ll need to have a huge game, at least defensively, for Duke to keep it close.
This one-on-one matchup will go a long way in deciding who advances to Monday’s National Title game.
The Duke role players’ disappearing act
Blue Devils’ freshman Paolo Banchero has led the team offensively this entire season. But outside of Williams, no one on Duke’s team showed up in the loss to UNC.
Jeremy Roach had 15 points off the bench, but Wendell Moore Jr. finished the loss with eight points, and AJ Griffin only had five.
Compare that to Carolina’s quartet of 20-point scorers, and you end up with a 13-point loss.
Banchero is averaging 18.5 points in the tournament. Williams is the only other Duke player in the top 100 in points per game.
Moore was the Blue Devils’ second-leading scorer throughout the regular season. He’s averaging 13.5 points per night in the tournament.
Trevor Keels was tied with Williams as the Devils’ third-leading regular-season scorer. He’s only had one game in double figures in the tournament.
Griffin was the only other Duke player to average more than 10 points during the regular season. He’s averaged 11.5 points during March Madness.
Banchero needs help. The Blue Devils can’t afford for the other players on the floor to disappear as they did against UNC. (And they’ve struggled during the tournament, which isn’t a good sign.)
If Paolo doesn’t get any help, Coach K’s final season at Duke will end in a Final Four loss to his biggest rival.
All statistics courtesy of ESPN.com.