For the final time as head coach, Mike Krzyzewski brings the No. 9 Blue Devils into the Dean Dome for a Tobacco Road rivalry matchup Saturday night. Ahead of the historic matchup in Chapel Hill, join the Blue Zone in the film room for some last-minute insights:
Led by first-year head coach Hubert Davis, the unranked Tar Heels don’t have quite the roster they’ve had in previous years. Remember that in 2018-19, the ACC was stacked with talent and three No. 1 seeds in the NCAA tournament in Duke, North Carolina, and eventual-champion Virginia. Since then, North Carolina hasn't had the same level of success, however, and the retirement of coaching legend Roy Williams came as a surprise at the end of the 2020-21 season. This North Carolina team may not be living up to the usual standard of the program, but the team is second behind Duke in the ACC largely due to star forward/center Armando Bacot and guard Caleb Love.
While Duke relies upon freshmen Trevor Keels, Paolo Banchero and AJ Griffin for many of the team’s minutes, North Carolina's team relies upon experience to a much greater extent having started zero freshmen all year. The team’s driving force, Bacot, can do it all down low—he’s averaging 16.5 points and 12.5 rebounds on the year and dominates inside the paint. Per CBB Analytics, the six-foot-10 junior shoots 48.5% in the paint and 65.5% at the rim, both above average for the nation. He’s long and strong with the ability to rack up boards and score at will down low. The Blue Devils will need to put someone strong on him—their interior defense often relies on help inside from sophomore center Mark Williams, who will have quite the task of boxing out Bacot on the defensive end.
The sophomore point guard Love is also integral to the North Carolina offense, putting up 15.3 points and a team-high 3.5 assists per game, orchestrating much of the offense for the Tar Heels. He shoots particularly well from long range at a 41.9% clip—in fact, North Carolina has multiple guards that can hit open shots consistently beyond the arc. Love himself, RJ Davis and Leaky Black all hit over 40% of their 3-point attempts, meaning that Duke can’t spend too much energy pressuring Bacot, Brady Manek or whoever else may be down low for the North Carolina offense. Love also averages 1.2 steals per game, so newly-minted primary ball handler Jeremy Roach will need to be as careful as ever for the Blue Devils despite his 6.4-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio over his last five games.
The Tar Heels have differentiated role players who can all get their own buckets, so Duke will have its work cut out for itself. The North Carolina game on the road is always a slugfest, so even though the Blue Devils are favored in this game, expect the new-look North Carolina squad to put up a fight.
This article is part of The Chronicle's Rivalry Edition. For more content, click here.
Get The Chronicle straight to your inbox
Signup for our weekly newsletter. Cancel at any time.