Skip to main content

Following one its most important wins of the season against N.C. State, No. 17 UNC faces a tough test once again. 

The Tar Heels (12-5) will host No. 13 Duke (16-1) on Thursday, playing their eighth game against a ranked opponent. 

The last time both teams entered this match up ranked in the AP poll was March 1, 2015, when 16th-ranked Duke beat 15th-ranked UNC 81-80. This time around should be just as close. 

The Tar Heels struggled to make shots against the Wolfpack, shooting 29.7 percent from the floor in their lowest scoring output of the season, and Duke won't make it any easier to generate offense. 

The Blue Devils will bring one of the nation's best defenses to Carmichael. They rank third in scoring defense amongst all Division I teams, allowing only 50.4 points per game, and in the ACC, they rank first in opponent field goal percentage (34.0 percent). 

Duke hasn't played as tough a schedule as UNC, but its best victory came in late December when the Blue Devils went to N.C. State and won by double-digits. 

Their aggressive on-ball defense and quick rotations made it difficult for the Wolfpack to get quality looks at the basket, especially from three. Duke does a good job of defending up close while staying in front, and it only allowed seven three-point attempts from an N.C. State team that takes 18 per game.

Scroll to Continue

Read More

The key for UNC will be to create opportunities from driving. Duke's defensive style of play creates driving lanes and space in the mid-range that guards can use to draw help and create open looks on the perimeter. 

With the quickness displayed by Deja Kelly, Kennedy Todd-Williams and Paulina Paris, the Tar Heels could also create more free-throw attempts in this game from attacking the basket. 

Another offensive key will be to take care of the basketball. Duke also likes to use a full court press sometimes and trap the ball-handler to create turnovers. The Tar Heels aren't usually a team that frequently gives the ball away, but the Blue Devils' opponents turn the ball over 19.4 times per game (third-best in the ACC). 

Defensively, UNC must guard the three-pointer and communicate well over screens. Duke doesn't take many shots from beyond the arc, but when they do, they go in 33.5 percent of the time and 45.4 percent of the time over its last five games. 

The Blue Devils also use a lot of on and off-ball screens to open up driving lanes for their guards and to create open looks on the perimeter. Defeating the screens and keeping on-ball pressure should make it difficult for Duke to get into their offense which doesn't score many points (only 69.9 per game). 

This game will likely be another low-scoring competition for UNC, but the combination of home court advantage and the experience of playing tough teams should give the Tar Heels help in knocking off their down-the-road rivals. 

Tip off will be on Thursday at 8 p.m. on ACC Network.