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The Daily Tar Heel

Analysis: How the UNC and Duke men's basketball bigs stack up


Photos courtesy of Daily Tar Heel photographers Samantha Lewis and Heather Diehl and Chronicle photographer Morgan Chu.

The return of many experienced, dynamic big men will play a key role in this season’s rivalry games. Here’s a look into how the notable bigs on each team have performed so far this season:

Armando Bacot

Bacot currently leads the ACC in rebounds with 9.9 per game and is also averaging 13.4 points. Additionally, he is shooting 78.6 percent from the free throw line — much higher than his previous average of 67 percent in the 2021-22 season. 

In UNC’s two losses to Duke last year, Bacot averaged 15.5 points and 10.5 rebounds for a double-double. To come out on top this year, Bacot will need to make better passes and allow UNC to fully utilize its wings and guards, in addition to his regular scoring and rebounding performance. 

The Blue Devils will be eager to push Bacot out to the perimeter, and force him to lose control of his usual post. Teams like Kentucky, who did this successfully earlier in the season, came out of the game victorious. Bacot will likely draw a matchup against Filipowski, who brings extreme versatility and will challenge Bacot's scoring abilities in the paint. 

Jalen Washington 

Washington spent much of his final year of high school recovering from a knee injury, which hindered his first-year season with the Tar Heels, causing him to only record 113 minutes. This year, however, has been a different story.

The sophomore forward has already logged 182 minutes and is averaging 69.2 percent shooting on field goals, as well as 50 percent from 3-point range. He’s become comfortable in a variety of positions on the floor, whether it be rebounding and blocking under the basket or shooting outside the arch.

His shooting ability makes him a key offensive contributor, while his 7-foot-4-inch wing span makes him an effective rim protector on defense. 

Jae’Lyn Withers

Withers, who recorded his first double-double as a Tar Heel against his former team on Jan. 17, looks to be peaking at the right time.

The Louisville transfer brings significant energy to the team when he comes off the bench and has contributed heavily to UNC’s increased depth this season.

His 6-foot-9-inch frame will serve him well on the outside, as he will likely match up with Duke's Ryan Young. Both players present strong hustle and footwork in the paint, with all the makings of a tough match-up.

Kyle Filipowski

Standing seven feet tall, Filipowski's height and physicality have provided a lot of offensive firepower for Duke in the paint, but it's his athleticism and playmaking ability that help him stand out in the face of other bigs. 

Filipowski has made 50.4 percent of his field goals this season and averages 17.5 points per game. His 37.3 percent shooting from 3-point range demonstrates his versatility on the floor. He is also a tough defender, recording an average of around two steals and one block per game this season.

His potential Tar Heel defenders include Bacot and Washington, when he comes off the bench. North Carolina will need to be aware of the speed that Filipowski presents against defenders on the dribble and guard his signature left-hand finish.

Ryan Young

Young, a sixth-year, transferred to Duke from Northwestern last season.

Although he hasn’t been starting for the Blue Devils, he averaged 24.5 minutes across two games following the injury of Mark Mitchell on Jan. 9. Mitchell's basketball knowledge and experience lead to impressive shot creation for Young, who has been shooting 62.8 percent from the field. 

North Carolina must be prepared defensively for a strong Young, who has shown his ability to move swiftly through the lane and past defenders in the front court, as well as come up with timely rebounds.

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