Preview: Duke-Carolina, the 241st edition

This special edition previews the season’s first matchup between #20 Duke and #5 North Carolina, tipping off at 9:00pm ET on ESPN. Here’s where the teams stand coming in:

  • After a rough stretch with four losses in five games, Duke (19–6, 8–4 ACC) has rebounded to knock off consecutive ranked opponents. The Blue Devils are playing their best basketball of the year at the right time.
  • North Carolina (21–4, 10–2) has been good all year with flashes of greatness. The four Tar Heel losses were by a combined 16 points, and they’re unblemished at home.
  • Duke has won 5 of 6 in the rivalry dating back to 2013. Longer-term, things are much closer:

Note on Brandon Ingram:
The standout Duke freshman is the latest product from Kinston, North Carolina. But unlike past Kinston stars Reggie Bullock and Jerry Stackhouse, Ingram chose the darker shade of blue. Ingram, the state’s Mr. Basketball, said he would’ve committed to UNC were it not for the investigation into North Carolina’s academic scandal.

The defection was a surprising disappointment to many in Chapel Hill, including Carolina Sr. forward Brice Johnson. Pay attention when those two guard each other tonight — it should be an intense matchup that helps decide the outcome.

Duke wins if:

  • They play zone defense effectively, stay out of foul trouble and force Carolina to miss three pointers.
  • Brandon Ingram gets Brice Johnson in early foul trouble and disrupts his rhythm.
  • Guard Grayson Allen gets to the basket off the dribble, forcing Carolina defenders to help and leading to open Duke threes.
  • This happens:

North Carolina wins if:

  • They pound the ball inside early and often and get Duke in foul trouble.
  • They rotate bodies and push the tempo, tiring out a thin Duke squad in a high-scoring game.
  • Guard Marcus Paige and forward Justin Jackson continue coming out of shooting slumps and knock down three pointers against the Duke zone.
  • This happens:


The Vegas line has Carolina favored by 6.5. The two Carolina grads writing this don’t dare make a prediction that could jinx anything. Here’s to a great game.

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