Allen scored just seven points in a loss to St. John's Saturday.

X Factor: Grayson Allen needs to step up for Duke against North Carolina

After falling on the road to lowly St. John's, Duke will make the short trip to Chapel Hill Thursday night to take on North Carolina. The Blue Zone gives a player on each team that could be the difference in the game: 

Duke: Guard Grayson Allen

Entering the final month of the regular season, preseason All-American Grayson Allen has yet to find any sort of consistency. The Blue Devils’ lone senior has been anything but the constant force alongside four freshmen starters. 

Allen simply hasn’t shown his trademark explosiveness in conference play, opting to pass the ball and take the majority of his attempts from the perimeter rather than use his quickness to get to the rim and finish or deliver at the free throw line. 

In order for Duke to bounce back from an upset loss Thursday against arch-rival North Carolina, the Blue Devils will need Allen to be more of a playmaker. In doing so, he can take the Tar Heel defense’s attention away from Marvin Bagley III and Wendell Carter Jr. in the post, giving them more room to work. 

But Allen being effective in that regard is anything but a guarantee: Allen has not reached the 20-point plateau since Dec. 30 and has recorded back-to-back double-digit scoring outputs just once since the start of 2018. The senior captain is coming off a brutal seven-point performance on 1-of-7 shooting against St. John’s, and will need a return to normalcy at some point in the near future—Gary Trent Jr. simply cannot sustain his recent red-hot shooting for the remainder of the season.

North Carolina: Guard Cameron Johnson

Like Allen, Johnson also initially struggled to find consistency after missing the first eleven games of the season. 

But the graduate transfer from Pittsburgh has found his shot over his last six contests, averaging 16.3 points per game during that stretch. Johnson could cause the Blue Devils trouble with his ability to get hot from the perimeter—especially with three-point defense haunting Duke all season. 

But it depends which Cameron Johnson shows up on Thursday. 

Will it be the player who tormented Clemson from downtown, draining 12-of-19 attempts from deep in two matchups this season? Or will we see the player who missed six of seven 3-pointers last week against his former team, one of the worst ACC teams in recent memory?

Johnson had struggled against Duke while with the Panthers, scoring just three points in both meetings between the teams, but having Johnson in one of the biggest rivalries in sports could be the difference for North Carolina Thursday.

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