North Carolina takes advantage of Duke's miscues to snag ACC title
Here are five quick thoughts on No. 6 North Carolina's 88-70 win over No. 4 Duke in Cameron Indoor Stadium on Saturday evening, one that saw the Tar Heels clinch the ACC's regular season title.
But the key to getting those four players going is Kendall Marshall.
It's been said before and it will be said many, many more times before the season is over, but he is the engine that makes the high-powered Tar Heel offense go. He's their quarterback, throwing the ball all over the floor to spark UNC's break. The difference in this game is that, in addition to the 10 assists that he had, Marshall also finished with 20 points. He only averages 6.8 ppg and has now scored in double figures just five times this season, but what he has proved is that he can be a weapon when he needs to be. It's not going to be that often that he is called upon for points -- not when he shares the court with at least four future NBA draft picks -- but for Roy Williams to know that he has a point guard that can a) knock down an open three pointer when defenses collapse on the bigs and b) create his own shot off the dribble when he has to is a valuable thing for the Heels heading into tournament play.
Duke is not as reliant on the three-ball as it has been in past seasons, but it is also rare that Coach K puts a team on the floor with so many question marks. To steal another colloquialism, the three-ball is the great equalizer for the Blue Devils. When they are making threes, the defensive lapses can be accounted for. Think about it like this: North Carolina jumped out to a 22-5 lead on the Blue Devils on Saturday. During that stretch, Duke missed all seven of the 3-pointers it shot and missed another six jumpers from inside the arc. If the Blue Devils knock down two or three of those shots, then it is a different story. A 10-point deficit is much less daunting than a 17-point deficit eight minutes into the game.
What happens if that rematch takes place in the Elite Eight? It's unlikely, but its possible.