It's that time of the year. The highly anticipated first Duke-UNC matchup of the season is upon us. And with both teams on a roll, ranking in the top 10 in national rankings, it's surely going to be a doozy.
The Tar Heels are the early favorites, but they just lost their undefeated status earlier this week. The Blue Devils, on the other hand, have won 11 of their last 12 games. They have the momentum behind them but will have to play a perfect game at North Carolina to pull off the upset. Here are three areas they need to focus on to come away with the win.
1. Continue hot three-point shooting
Duke currently leads the ACC in three-point shooting accuracy (38.7%) and is fourth in the conference in three-pointers made per game (8.4). North Carolina is middle of the pack in both areas.
Jared McCain, Jeremy Roach, and Caleb Foster both hit over 40 percent of their attempts, and the Blue Devils need all three to hit enough threes to keep the offense afloat. Duke is 9-0 in games where they have hit over 40 percent of their threes. They need to replicate it to have a chance.
2. Match North Carolina on the boards
The Tar Heels are one of the most dominant rebounding teams in the country, leading the ACC by a mile in rebounds per game. Armando Bacot and Harrison Ingram like to play a physical brand of basketball in the paint, crashing the offensive glass at every opportunity.
Duke has a size and length advantage at every position starting with Kyle Filipowski. Backcourt rotation of McCain, Proctor, and Foster need to use their size to help on the boards and not give North Carolina second-chance opportunities.
3. Stay out of foul trouble
Duke is a seven-deep team. Coach Scheyer only trusts seven players in his rotation in big games. This creates a ton of issues when key players get in foul trouble. This is especially a big problem with Filipowski, who most recently fouled out against Clemson with only 24 minutes of action.
Duke needs him to be able to play as many minutes as possible. Two early fouls in the first half would change the entire game, especially against North Carolina's dominant bigs.