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Friday September 30th

Preview: Three keys to UNC men's basketball's rivalry matchup against Duke

Duke first-year guard Cassius Stanley (2) dunks the ball in Cameron Indoor Stadium on Saturday, March 7, 2020. UNC lost to Duke 89-76.
Buy Photos Duke first-year guard Cassius Stanley (2) dunks the ball in Cameron Indoor Stadium on Saturday, March 7, 2020. UNC lost to Duke 89-76.

It's that special time of year again.

With the UNC-Duke men's basketball game right around the corner, all bets will be off in the first matchup between these two teams since the COVID-19 pandemic halted sports last year. Ahead of the rivalry contest, check out these three facets of the game that could play a huge role in deciding a winner.

Watch out for Goldwire

The Tar Heels have a turnover problem.

First-year point guard Caleb Love and others have cleaned things up a bit recently, but that hasn't stopped North Carolina from falling to No. 297 in the nation in total turnovers. And those numbers don't bode well for a squad that hasn't even caught wind of the toughest stretch of its schedule yet.

Against Duke on Feb. 6, Love and first-year guard RJ Davis will almost certainly have to spend a good chunk of the night matched up against Duke's defensive stud Jordan Goldwire.

If the Tar Heels aren't careful about protecting the rock, Goldwire, who already has 31 steals this season and swiped three from UNC in Duke's overtime win in Chapel Hill last year, has the potential to make North Carolina pay for it.

Drawing fouls

One of the easiest paths to victory for North Carolina is to get the Blue Devils in foul trouble.

Duke averages 17.8 personal fouls per game and has had six players foul out in 13 games this season. The Blue Devils could be on the ropes if UNC decides to use its oversized frontcourt trio of Garrison Brooks, Armando Bacot and Day'Ron Sharpe to pound the paint and draw contact.

If one of Duke's stars, like Matthew Hurt or Jalen Johnson, finds themselves riding the bench out of precaution early, there aren't many positive signs for the Blue Devils' bench.

In Duke's losses to Virginia Tech and Louisville, the Blue Devils managed just six and 10 bench points, respectively. In their losses to Illinois and Pitt, the bench put up huge numbers, but only because guys like Goldwire, Jaemyn Brakefield and Mark Williams earned a brief starting spot before they were quickly demoted to the sidelines for the rest of the games in favor of Jeremy Roach, Wendell Moore Jr. or Johnson.

Crash the offensive glass

The Tar Heels continue to exceed expectations when it comes to their dominant rebounding abilities. That shouldn't change against a Duke roster that only has one player taller than 6-foot-9.

Although UNC doesn't shoot the ball particularly well, especially from beyond the arc, the Tar Heels haul in 15.2 offensive boards a game, good for No. 2 in the country. Meanwhile, the Blue Devils only gobble up 24.9 defensive rebounds per contest, which puts them in the bottom half of teams in the nation.

If first-year guard Kerwin Walton, Davis or Love go cold and can't find their shooting touch in Cameron Indoor Stadium on Saturday, Tar Heel fans can find solace in the fact that Bacot or Sharpe have good odds of getting a shot at some second chance points against an undersized Hurt or Johnson.

Against the Blue Devils, UNC's missed shots may turn out to be its most beneficial.


@dthsports |


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