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Film room: Duke men's basketball's defense will face tough test against North Carolina's offensive options

<p>North Carolina beat Duke 94-81 March 5 after the Blue Devils won by 20 points in Chapel Hill a month earlier.</p>

North Carolina beat Duke 94-81 March 5 after the Blue Devils won by 20 points in Chapel Hill a month earlier.

In a Final Four game doubling as a rivalry rubber match, Duke and North Carolina will meet Saturday for a chance to compete for the national championship Monday. Ahead of the historic contest, join the Blue Zone in the film room to analyze what the Blue Devils should expect to see in New Orleans:

What happened between Duke and North Carolina March 5 is in the past.

Four teams are competing on the biggest stage in college basketball this weekend, which is sure to be one of the most storied in Blue Devil history with a Duke-North Carolina matchup on the calendar and three potential opponents for head coach Mike Krzyzewski's final game. After a 20-point victory in Chapel Hill in February and a 13-point home loss to North Carolina in early March, the Blue Devils will take on the Tar Heels for the third time this season and the first time in the NCAA tournament in program history—let alone with a spot in the national championship game on the line. 

The Tar Heels have improved greatly this season, going from taking losses against ranked teams in Purdue, Tennessee and Kentucky in the early months to defeating the likes of Duke, Baylor and UCLA in some of their most recent matchups. North Carolina has powered through the NCAA tournament thus far, taking its first four games to reach the Final Four against the Blue Devils. 

Though there is a strict five-man starting lineup with this group that sees little to no rotation, the Tar Heels mainly rely on four to make their offensive game shine—Armando Bacot, Brady Manek, RJ Davis and Caleb Love. Each has had a huge day of his own in the Tar Heels' Final Four run, with each scoring at least 20 points at some point in the last four games. For Duke to win Saturday's contest, its biggest challenge will be containing these four on the offensive end.

This clip from North Carolina's second-round win against No. 1-seed Baylor exemplifies the chemistry that these four have on offense. Love passes to Manek, who sees Bacot for a drive. Bacot is ideally positioned against Baylor's Jeremy Sochan, which allows him to receive the pass from Manek without hesitation of losing it. Noticing that he can't move directly to the basket with Sochan and Kendall Brown ready to defend him, Bacot finds a wide-open Davis, who shoots and drains the trey. Plays like this were abundant for the Tar Heels against Baylor with both Davis and Manek—both are shooting threats from afar, going a respective 5-of-10 and 4-of-8 from beyond the arc. For Duke to be successful on defense, it will have to focus on both North Carolina's driving and 3-point shooting.

Another thing that Duke will have to be careful about is avoiding North Carolina’s drives and deception in the paint. The group is smart and stealthy on offense and especially has been so throughout the tournament. In this clip, Bacot sets a pick on St. Peter's guard Isiah Dasher, and though he doesn't prevent him from getting to the ball-handler, it's enough to slow him down. This allows Love to drive through the paint, and after noticing that he doesn't have a perfect opportunity to score, he sees Manek in the clear area below the arc for a bounce pass. Manek fakes a shot, then quickly turns to drain the jumper.

The Tar Heels are going to stir up some trouble for Duke Saturday night, especially with the starting five playing with such high basketball IQ right now. Duke comes into the Caesars Superdome as the country's top-ranked team in terms of offensive efficiency, per KenPom. Though we already know that the Blue Devils have what it takes to score with any of their opponents, this game will be a test of how strong their defense is.


Ana Young | Assistant Blue Zone Editor

Ana Young is a Trinity sophomore and an assistant Blue Zone editor of The Chronicle’s 118th volume.

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