Tale of the tape: Tar Heels-Blue Devils break down

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by - 2/11/2009 3:50 PM Share

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By DAVE CAREY

Basketball's premier rivalry finally takes center stage on Wednesday night. Two teams separated by just a handful of miles on Tobacco Road are stocked full of McDonald's All-Americans and pro prospects — and even better yet, they hate each other. Before we find out which shade of blue is best, take a look at how two of the top teams in the country compare.

GUARDS

Duke: Senior Greg Paulus (6.1 ppg, 1.6 apg) has emerged as a catalyst on offense for the Blue Devils. This isn't a good thing, since he couldn't guard my 85-year-old Nana. Jon Scheyer (13 ppg, 3.8 rpg) is one of the team's best perimeter scorers, but not as athletic as any of North Carolina's guards.

UNC: Ty Lawson (15.3 ppg, 6.6 apg) powers the Tar Heels as he is seventh in the country in assists per game and Wayne Ellington (15 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 2.7 apg) is an athletic complement to his fluid play. After this duo, however, the backcourt gets very thin.

Edge: UNC

FORWARDS

Duke: Kyle Singler (15.8 ppg, 8.2 rpg) is the team's leading scorer and most consistent player. Gerald Henderson (15.2 ppg, 5 rpg), however, is the Blue Devil's most dynamic player and easily their most complete.

UNC: Danny Green went from being one of the best sixth men in the country last season to one of the best wing defenders this year. Green (13.5 ppg, 4.5 rpg) averages 1.9 steals and 1.6 blocks per game and is a great complement to national player of the year candidate Tyler Hansbrough (22.1 ppg, 7.8 rpg).

Edge: UNC

BENCH

Duke: Even with Paulus switching spots with guard Nolan Smith (9.5 ppg, 1.7 apg), the Blue Devil's reserves aren't great. Forwards David McClure (2.1 ppg, 4 rpg) and center Brian Zoubek (5.6 ppg, 4.4 rpg) are very soft.

UNC: The Tar Heels lost Tyler Zeller and Marcus Ginyard for the year due to injuries and Will Graves has been suspended for the rest of the season. After the team's top reserves — Bobby Frasor (2.4 ppg, 1.3 rpg) and Ed Davis (6.7 ppg, 7.4 rpg) — it slim pickings.

Edge: UNC

COACHING

Duke: Mike Krzyzewski has done a great job with this year's team by masking their decencies with superb team play. The Blue Devils are struggling to find an offensive identity as conference play winds down and have just made a change at point guard — all bad signs for a team expected to contend for a national title. If the gamble works, he's even more of a genius, but if it backfires, this team squanders a chance to contend in a wide-open season.

UNC: Roy Williams has the Tar Heels playing their best since the beginning of the season. A win over Duke not only establishes UNC as the top team in the Atlantic Coast Conference, it reaffirms its position as the main title contender. Williams will be forced to juggle a short bench, and the team's success depends on it.

Edge: Duke

OFFENSE

Duke: The Blue Devils are 30th in the country, averaging 78.2 points per game, but have surpassed that mark just twice in the past nine games. The team also ranks just 114th in FG percentage (44.9), but 41st in three-point FG percentage (40). If Duke can't hit threes, it struggles to score.

UNC: The Tar Heels have arguably the best offense in America, averaging 92.3 points per game. And they are efficient in their attack — first in the country with 19.7 assists per game. UNC is a fantastic shooting team, making 48.8 percent of its shots from the floor and 38.8 percent from beyond the arc, both in the top 25 nationally.

Edge: UNC

DEFENSE

Duke: This unit has been a consistent strength for the team as it is allowing just 61 points per game, 35th-best nationally. Opponents also are shooting a meager 31 percent from beyond the arc and Duke is 24th in the country in rebounding margin at plus-6.1.

UNC: The Tar Heels lone weakness. The team gets so fixated scoring points, it is yielding 71.2 per game, 253rd nationally. UNC, however, is 13th in blocks per game (6) and 23rd in steals (8.9), nationally. The Tar Heels also are a great rebounding team, ranked 10th in the country with a margin of plus-7.5.

Edge: Duke

CLUTCH/INTANGIBLES

Duke: The Blue Devils have struggled recently against North Carolina, but have experience in closes games this season. Duke is 4-2 in games decided by nine points or less and have put many opponents away late in games to turn close contests into routs.

UNC: The Tar Heels aren't intimidated by Cameron Indoor Stadium — their seniors, Green and Hansbrough, are trying to go 4-0 there. UNC has rallied since loses to Boston College and Wake Forest to win seven in a row, but are just 1-2 in games decided by seven or fewer points.

Edge: Duke

VERDICT: UNC 4, Duke 3

The Tar Heels have too much athleticism. Duke slows down the talented team from down the road at first, but can't execute on offense down the stretch, losing 74-62.


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