North Carolina and Duke? Throw out the records -- this is war. Ignore how well or poorly we've been playing before this point. None of it will matter once tipoff happens.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Whatever.
But this time all of that talk is more than just cliche.
The second-ranked Blue Devils (25-4, 12-3 in the ACC) will be without starting center Carlos Boozer, who has an injured foot, when they visit Chapel Hill on Sunday at 3:30 p.m. for a showdown with No. 4 UNC (23-4, 13-2).
And no one is sure what to expect.
Will Duke, the NCAA's most prolific 3-point shooting team (10.6 per game), attempt even more long-range bombs than usual? Will the Blue Devils use three or four guards at one time and play 6-foot-8 Shane Battier at center? Can Duke reserves Casey Sanders and Matt Christensen play big minutes without hurting the team?
"I don't know, to be honest with you," UNC forward Jason Capel said. "I think Duke's going to play their game. They'll still shoot a lot of 3s, be very aggressive on defense, and we don't expect anything different. It's a big loss, but I think they're going to step up and play well."
The stakes are high enough -- that much is certain. The Blue Devils can claim a share of the ACC regular-season title if they knock off UNC. The two teams also are still battling for the top seed in the East Region for the NCAA tournament.
Boozer won't return until NCAAs after fracturing the third metatarsal in his right foot in Duke's 91-80 loss to Maryland on Tuesday night. Doctors will re-evaluate him in two weeks, but Boozer could be out of action for three or more weeks, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said Thursday.