3 Duke Blue Devils on Thin Ice Before Battle vs. North Carolina

A Blue Devils victory is dependent on strong games from these players

Kyle Filipowski played just 22 minutes against NC State due to foul trouble
Kyle Filipowski played just 22 minutes against NC State due to foul trouble / Jaylynn Nash-USA TODAY Sports
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The Duke Blue Devils square off with their hated rival, the North Carolina Tar Heels, at home on Saturday with an opportunity to win a share of the ACC title.

Duke has eight wins in their last nine games and looks like a true NCAA Tournament contender. Rising to +2300 to win the championship at FanDuel Sportsbook, the Blue Devils are primed for a deep run, starting with revenge against these Tar Heels after a 93-84 road loss earlier this year.

While Duke is on a great stretch, they're not a perfect team. Let's look at three Blue Devils on thin ice as we approach the biggest game of the year thus far.

3 Duke Blue Devils on Thin Ice

1. Kyle Filipowski

Filipowski leads the Blue Devils in points and rebounds, though he was entrapped in drama following the Wake Forest court-storming incident. Given the intensity of this rivalry, Filipowski is likely to be the recipient of more than a few jeers from any traveling Tar Heels fans despite the fact that the game will be at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

How he responds could dictate the pace of the game and whether Duke wins. He had 22 points in the first meeting on 9-of-17 shooting but was just 1-of-6 from beyond the arc, allowing North Carolina to pack the paint. Armando Bacot had 25 points and 10 rebounds in a dominant performance, and Duke needs Filipowski to be better defensively to have a chance to win.

The NBA hopeful is fully capable of taking over the game, though he did play only 22 minutes in the win over NC State due to foul trouble. North Carolina would be wise to employ a similar strategy, trying to draw fouls early to get the star big man off the court early.

If you look at Duke's losses, Filipowski's availability was a major factor in each. He had four fouls against North Carolina and Wake Forest and three against Pittsburgh, so I'll be watching closely to see if he can avoid whistles in the first 10 minutes of the game.

Filipowski is the biggest key to this game. Whether justified or not, he's on thin ice as a result.

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