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College basketball preview: Duke vs North Carolina

Duke gang rebounding
Duke gang rebounding
Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

The Duke Blue Devils will finally be able to travel the 11 miles to take on North Carolina in a potential ACC classic on Thursday. Eight days after a winter storm suspended the game, two of the hottest ACC teams will battle for bragging rights.

Duke vs North Carolina (9:00 p.m. on ESPN).

Duke (21-5), boasts two high flying forwards that can get it done on the wing as well as in the paint. Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood help lead the highly efficient offense to 81 points per game. Parker leads Duke in scoring at 19.2 points per game, while Hood averages 16.2 points nightly.

It will be a very intriguing battle with the front court of North Carolina. On Monday, James Michael McAdoo was held scoreless in the win over Florida State. That alone should help motivate McAdoo in tonight’s game.

Brice Johnson will need to be a force defensively for the Tarheels. His ability to attack the rim will be key if North Carolina is to pull off the upset.

When it comes to shooting, Duke has the advantage, but it doesn’t mean North Carolina has to take bad three point shots. Carolina shoots 32% from three, while Duke hits 41% of their shots from downtown.

For the Tarheels, Marcus Paige must be the only one taking three’s with regularity, and North Carolina needs to concentrate on driving the ball in the paint. If they settle for bad shots, it could be the first pass to Duke’s transition game.

Quinn Cook also has to control the game on both ends of the floor. It will be interesting to see who he starts on defensively. Yet, it seems like he’ll be matched up with Nate Britt for the majority of the game.

Andre Dawkins’ shooting will be the x-factor for Duke. His ability to stretch the defense will be pivotal for Duke’s offensive success. It’s especially true if one of their main scorers doesn’t have it going early.

The winner of the game will currently be one of the hottest teams in the country hands down. Even though they meet during the ACC finale, it’s imperative for both teams to play well.


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