Saturday March 7th, 2009

Things to watch in Sunday's North Carolina-Duke matchup:

1: Goodbye, seniors: Expect an emotional sendoff for North Carolina's seven seniors. That group includes 2005 signees Tyler Hansbrough, Danny Green, Bobby Frasor, Marcus Ginyard and Mike Copeland, who arrived as freshmen following a mass exodus from the 2005 national title team. The group didn't allow the program to fall off, and this season the Tar Heels are poised to grab a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. It also doesn't hurt that most of the seniors are 5-2 against Duke and went 4-0 at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

Though he's happy to celebrate his seniors' accomplishments, UNC coach Roy Williams worries about distractions.

"The biggest challenge is to get the kids to relax, so they're so worried about, 'Is granddad going to be here? Is my girlfriend going to be able to bum a ticket from somebody else?'" he said. "It's all those logistical stresses on the kids that the parents don't really want, but the parents cause a great deal of concern for the players. "It doesn't allow them to rest mentally or physically. It doesn't allow them to focus like we'd like for them to the day of the game. Then you have certain youngsters that put more pressure on themselves. Basketball is a game where you can get emotionally too high."

Another issue is the Senior Day tradition of starting all the old guys. With seven seniors, that's impossible. "I'm going to call Mike [Kryzyzewski] tonight and ask him if he wants to start seven," Williams said Friday.

2. Hello, Elliot: Duke freshman guard Elliot Williams didn't play in the Blue Devils' 101-87 loss to the Tar Heels in Durham on Feb. 11. He'll play plenty Sunday. Kryzyzewski's decision to bench senior Greg Paulus and replace him with Williams re-energized Duke. Williams entered the starting lineup Feb. 19 against St. John's and Duke is 5-0 since. Williams scored in double figures in four of those games.

Since Nolan Smith's concussion will sideline him again Sunday, Williams likely will be charged with stopping North Carolina point guard Ty Lawson. That may not be as tough a task as it might have been before Lawson injured his left big toe during Friday's practice. Lawson, who didn't practice Saturday, is expected to play. Williams, who could star in his own battery commercial if not for NCAA rules, should make things much more interesting.

"He's been really superb," Kryzyzewski said. "His energy is what you would want from freshmen who are playing whether they're starting or coming off the bench. He seems not to get tired, and he's playing so hard. ... It makes all of our guys out there a little bit better. His play has really given us a big boost."

3. Redick's record safe -- for now: Unless Hansbrough has a game for the ages, former Duke guard JJ Redick's all-time ACC scoring record probably will stand until sometime next weekend. Hansbrough (2,700 career points), needs to score 70 to break Redick's record.

4. A championship is on the line: This is the 12th time a Duke-Carolina regular-season finale will decide at least a share of the ACC title. If Carolina wins, the Tar Heels take the regular-season title outright. If Duke wins, the teams must share the title. Though it probably won't affect NCAA Tournament seeding much unless Carolina follows by losing its first ACC tourney game and Duke follows by winning the ACC tourney Williams would prefer his team just win the title.

"I've always put a great deal of emphasis on the regular season," he said. "I think it means more. It's your body of work over two-and-a-half to three months, over 16 games. You've heard me say many times, 'Enjoy the journey.' If you're playing well in the regular season, you have a greater chance to enjoy the journey."

5. A discount is on the line, too: The Tar Heels would love to hang triple digits on the Blue Devils for a second time this season, but their fans would love it even more. When UNC scores 100 points or more at home, fans can bring their ticket stubs to Carolinas chicken 'n' biscuiteer Bojangles and get two sausage biscuits for $1.

After last week's 104-74 win against Georgia Tech, Hansbrough almost committed Tobacco Road blasphemy when he told the Raleigh News and Observer that "I don't really go to Bojangles." That's like living on Mount Olympus for four years and saying you don't like nectar and ambrosia. Hansbrough rescued himself when he professed his admiration for the BoBerry, the chain's sweetest biscuit.

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