Come Saturday all eyes in the college basketball world will be fixated on Chapel Hill, N.C., when No. 7 Duke makes the eight-mile trek down Tobacco Road to duel with North Carolina.
Naturally, opinions abound on who will prevail in the bitter rivalry; especially when it comes to their signees for the 2020 class.
We caught up with most of the players from both schools’ 2020 recruiting classes and asked them to make predictions about the game.
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And, while, they promised that objectivity would remain at the forefront of their picks, we posed a follow-up question to test that claim.
The Future Tar Heels
Walker Kessler, Woodward Academy (Atlanta), C
And the winner is… “Definitely picking my team.”
Here’s why… “These are the types of games where you can really see a team’s character, and I honestly think they’re gonna use this game to prove everyone wrong.”
The only way I could see Duke winning is if… “The Duke legends like Christian Laettner and those guys all came back and transformed into their primes; then I could maybe see them pulling it out.”
Day’Ron Sharpe, Montverde (Fla.) Academy, F
And the winner is… “Oh North Carolina, we’re gonna bring it!”
Here’s why… “I’m committed to Carolina so I’m gonna choose them regardless. It’s always a good game versus Duke. We always step our game up for this one. It doesn’t matter what the record is or how the season has gone so far.”
The only way I could see Duke winning is if… “Hmm… I don’t want to think about Duke winning in any scenario.”
Puff Johnson, Hillcrest Prep (Phoenix), SG
And the winner is… “North Carolina will win.”
Here’s why… “We’ll pound the ball inside and get back to North Carolina basketball, playing inside-out. We’ll control the pace, limit turnovers and make shots. We’ll get back to what we do and come out with the win.”
The only way I could see Duke winning is if… “Zion comes back and plays for Duke… You know what not even then, we’d still win if he came back. The only way I could see Duke winning is if North Carolina’s bus doesn’t bring the players to the gym.”
R.J. Davis, Bishop Stepianc (White Plains, N.Y.), SG
And the winner is… “North Carolina.”
Here’s why… “The game will have a lot of hype and our adrenaline will be up so we’ll be ready. I just think our hard work and togetherness are gonna put us over the top.”
The only way I could see Duke winning is if… “Zion comes back and suits up for Duke and drops 30, then they might get it. Other than that, I’m picking my guys.”
Caleb Love, Christian Brothers (St. Louis, Mo.), PG
And the winner is… “You know who I'm rocking with, I've got my guys!"
Here’s why... "We're getting better and we're getting close to those wins. Now that we have Cole (Anthony) back it's a big plus. I think he'll lead us to the win. I know Cole and he loves the bright lights; when the lights come on Saturday he's gonna get into a mode that will be unstoppable."
The only way I could see Duke winning is if… "Tre (Jones) and Cassius (Stanley) combine for 10 threes."
The Future Blue Devils
Jaemyn Brakefield, Huntington (W.Va.) Prep, SF
And the winner is… “Duke.”
Here’s why… “I just think Tre (Jones) and Jordan (Goldwire) will apply a lot of pressure to them in the backcourt and that will basically set the tone for the game. We’ll win by 10.”
The only way I could see North Carolina winning is if… “Michael Jordan comes back and plays for them.”
Mark Williams, IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla.), C
And the winner is… “Duke, of course.”
Here’s why… “We’re just more of a complete team and we defend. Don’t get me wrong, it’ll be a dogfight, but I see us winning this one in the end.”
The only way I could see North Carolina winning is if… “They hit 25 threes. That’s the only way I see us losing.”
Henry Coleman, Trinity Episcopal (Richmond, Va.), F
And the winner is… “Duke, all day.”
Here’s why… “We’re the better team and we really defend. Our guards really pressure heavy for 94 feet and that will just wear them down. We have too many weapons, so we’ll get the win. I’m not worried about that.”
The only way I could see North Carolina winning is if… “All of their past legends came back and suited up for the game then had career nights. Other than that, I’m sticking with my pick.”
D.J. Steward, Whitney Young (Chicago), CG
And the winner is… “Duke, of course.”
Here’s why… “We’re just a tough, gritty team and we hurt you in so many ways on both ends of the floor. I just think we’re the better team and we’ll show that on Saturday.”
The only way I could see North Carolina winning is if… “Roy Williams suits up and drops 20.”
Jeremy Roach, Paul VI (Fairfax, Va.), PG
And the winner is… “Definitely Duke.”
Here’s why… “They’ve got Cole Anthony back, but we’ve got Tre Jones. Cole is their only major option, so I think we’ll cutoff the head of the snake and take care of business from there.”
The only way I could see North Carolina winning is if… “Michael Jordan comes back and has a big game for them.”