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X-Factor: Duke men's basketball needs a veteran presence from Justin Robinson against North Carolina

<p>Normally Duke's 11th man, Justin Robinson played a critical role against N.C. State.</p>

Normally Duke's 11th man, Justin Robinson played a critical role against N.C. State.

Following a buzzer-beater winning performance in the last Duke-North Carolina game, the Blue Devils look to finish the regular season strong with a win against the Tar Heels on Senior Night. The Blue Zone gives you a player to watch from each team for Saturday’s edition of the greatest rivalry in college basketball:

Duke: Forward Justin Robinson

Fan-favorite Justin Robinson is the longest-tenured Duke player, and head coach Mike Krzyzewski would love for his captain’s final game in Cameron Indoor Stadium to be a win. Robinson’s minutes were limited early in the season—he didn’t play more than five minutes in a game until a Feb. 25 loss at Wake Forest. Tre Jones and Vernon Carey have shouldered much of the scoring load, but a new player seems to rise to the challenge every game, proving that this year’s team is all about depth.

For a group that struggles with slow starts, Robinson provides invaluable energy off the bench. When Robinson checked into the N.C. State game down eight midway through the first half, he quickly splashed two 3-pointers and brought Duke to within spitting distance of the lead. The Cameron Crazies roared with pride  later in the half when a momentous dunk from Robinson extended Duke’s scoring run to 7-0. Robinson finished the game with 10 points, his first double-digit performance of the season and third of his career, but more importantly, he kept Duke on track when the game could have easily gotten out of hand. 

It isn’t reasonable to expect another miraculous comeback like in Chapel Hill. If Robinson sees the floor for significant time, expect him to provide a crucial spark for the Duke offense during mid-game lulls.

North Carolina: Guard Christian Keeling

This North Carolina team has only managed to win six games in the ACC, but it has hit its stride in the past few weeks. With a win in Cameron Indoor Stadium, the Tar Heels can extend their win streak to four games and finish this disappointing regular season on a high note. Cole Anthony and Garrison Brooks are the clear driving forces of this team, but North Carolina could benefit from extra spacing and individual scoring off the bench.

Christian Keeling drops a quiet 6.9 points per game, but has shown head coach Roy Williams that he can play significant minutes in the backcourt. His scoring clip is up to 12.6 points per contest since Feb. 3, and Williams has rewarded him with more minutes down the stretch of conference play. Keeling had a big impact from mid-range in the first meeting with Duke, and his ability to create his own shot gives North Carolina a scrappy scoring option to take some of the load off of its main offensive weapons. The Tar Heels were mere seconds away from victory twice in Chapel Hill— if Keeling repeats his performance, an upset might be in the cards Saturday.

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