One of the biggest questions in college hoops the last few weeks was when would Zion Williamson return. Many thought the freshman phenom would be back by now, but heading into Saturday’s regular season finale against UNC, his status still remains up in the air. Roy Williams has said he’s preparing for him. Coach K, who said he was doubtful for the much anticipated rematch, is preparing without him. But Zion or no Zion there’s still plenty to watch for in the greatest rivalry in sports.
- Will Luke Maye Go Off?In their 88-72 win over Duke in February, Luke Maye finished with 30 points and 15 rebounds. The Tar Heel senior had his way in the post against a Duke team that was exposed defensively without Williamson. The Blue Devils cannot afford to let this happen again, so expect Coach K to have a specific plan to keep Maye out of the paint. That means, the versatile forward will have to hit long-range jumpers and 3’s. If he’s able to spread the floor by doing this, it will be a long day in Chapel Hill for the Blue Devils.
- Will the Role Players Stand Up?RJ Barrett and Cam Reddish combined for 60 of Duke’s 72 points last game. No other Blue Devil had more than six. If Duke wants to pull off the upset, role players like Alex O’Connell and Jack White will have to play big minutes. White was 0 for 5 in the loss and O’Connell was 0 for 4. But both have since gotten their groove back as the Blue Devils have learned to adjust as a team without Zion. If they’re able to contribute 7-10 points each, it will go a long way in helping Duke win.
- Who Will Win the Point Guard Battle?Over the last few weeks, Coby White has been one of the best players in all of college basketball. The Tar Heels’ freshman point guard has averaged 20 points per game since their last matchup and will undoubtedly be looking to improve on stat line from February 20th, where he finished with 9 points on 3 for 14 shooting. But the one person who can make things hard for the explosive guard is Duke’s Tre Jones – one of the best defenders in the country. If the Blue Devils want to win, Jones’ job will be two-fold. He’ll have to keep Coby in check and contribute on the offensive side of the ball. In the first game, Tre went a disappointing 1 for 11 from the floor. The matchup between White and Jones will be key for both teams.
- The teams are meeting as AP top five opponents for the 12th time in the rivalry — five more than any other matchup in college basketball history.
- The last 100 games of the Duke-Carolina rivalry are split 50- 50, while the last 10 games are even at 5-5. The teams have split the 46 all-time AP top 10 matchups, 23-23
- Saturday’s game in Chapel Hill is the 250th meeting, with North Carolina leading the series, 138-111.
- Carolina and Virginia are tied for first place in the ACC with 15-2 records; Duke is one game behind at 14-3.
- RJ Barrett’s 33 points against the Heels in the earlier meeting this season marked the most by a Duke freshman in the rivalry’s history.
- This is the final game at the Smith Center for seniors Luke Maye and Kenny Williams and graduate student Cameron Johnson. Over the past four years, UNC is 117-30 overall, 54-17 in ACC regular-season play and 56-6 at home (55-6 in the Smith Center). In Johnson’s two years as a Tar Heel, UNC is 51-16 overall, 26-9 in regular-season ACC games and 25-5 at the Smith Center. Carolina played in the national championship game in 2016 in Maye’s and Williams’ freshman year, and won the national title in 2017. The 117 wins tie the fifth most over any four-year period in Carolina Basketball history.