If Duke can get a monumental win tonight at UNC, there is still a slim chance they can get another quad-1 win for the NCAA Tournament selection committee to consider a potential at-large bid, with the ACC tournament looming next week.
Tonight’s battle will be no small task for a Blue Devil team that is lacking the inside presence to battle with a UNC team that has dominated that area all season long. Ranking in the top five in the ACC in offensive rebounds and second chance points, the Heels bread and butter has been controlling the inside. The emergence of Walker Kessler gives UNC another big alongside Day’ron Sharpe, Armando Bacot, and Garrison Brooks. Duke has recently implemented freshman 7-footer Mark Williams into the lineup changing the offensive scheme for Duke which is still feed Matthew Hurt. Hurt has had the ability to stretch the floor with his outside sharp shooting capabilities – shooting nearly 46% from deep and 57% from the field.
The downside of Hurt has been defending the interior and foul trouble due to him playing out of position defensively. Tonight, if Coach K doesn’t give Mark Williams more minutes, which will be vital, expect Hurt to be placed in situations defending 250 plus pounder Sharpe in the post, which has mismatch all over it.
Where There’s Optimism?
During the 87-91 loss in Cameron to the Heels, Matthew Hurt only scored 7 points, (3-6 from the field), with 3 rebounds before fouling out. Duke hung around and put up a respectable effort despite the lack of production from Hurt and a team high 18 turnovers. All five Tar Heel starters scored double figures, including a career high 25 points from freshman Caleb Love, who played with a chip on his shoulder from reportedly being over-recruited by fellow Duke freshman Jeremy Roach.
Where There’s Concern?
It’s debated why K doesn’t adapt faster for in-game situations when his team is failing to respond. In games against Notre Dame, Miami and Louisville, Duke failed to adapt in key situations that would have potentially allowed them to come out on top. In the first matchup against UNC, Duke didn’t go out zone, which would have helped against the Heels who shot 10-15 from deep. Moreover, K has to play Mark Williams more than just 15 minutes in this matchup.
Changing the tide for Duke starts on the defensive end. Can the backcourt control Love, Davis, and Harris from penetrating the lane? Kerwin Walton, UNC’s lone sharp-shooter, is lethal from deep and doesn’t need much separation for his release. Duke has struggled guarding the perimeter all season long. Which Duke team will show up? This is about balance for Duke. With both teams coming off losses and looking to enter the ACC tournament with a win and a better sense of identity, this contest is crucial for the Blue Devils and Heels.