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Then and now: How has Duke men's basketball changed since its first game against UNC?

Junior Wendell Moore Jr. figures to be an important player against North Carolina because of his role as a leader.
Junior Wendell Moore Jr. figures to be an important player against North Carolina because of his role as a leader.

Before Duke takes the floor back at home against North Carolina, the Blue Zone brings you back a few weeks to the first time the two teams played and previews the upcoming rematch:

Then

Duke locks down Caleb Love and the Tar Heels

Throughout the game, Duke was able to hold the North Carolina starters—save Brady Manek—to just 1-of-8 from the 3-point line. Its defense beyond the arc allowed Duke to keep a strong lead throughout the game and kept the Tar Heels from building many effective comebacks. The Blue Devils also put key offensive player Caleb Love on lockdown. The usually reliable scorer went 3-of-10 from the field and was 1-of-5 from distance. And similarly, the usually dominant junior Armando Bacot was held to 4-of-10 from the field with only five rebounds.

AJ Griffin's true potential

There have been multiple times throughout the season where Griffin has shown the potential Duke fans expected. However, Griffin’s highlight game was undoubtedly against North Carolina. The 6-foot-6 freshman led the team, and by far, in points with 27. He also secured three shots from beyond the arc on 50% 3-point shooting, and showed his physicality at the rim with multiple tough layups where he fought through contact. 

Brady Manek can shoot

Through the rough offensive showing from the Tar Heels, the one bright spot came from the 6-foot-9 senior Brady Manek. The forward finished with 21 points and six rebounds on the day. Most impressively, he went 6-of-10 from the 3-point line. His timely shots throughout the game briefly revitalized a stagnant offense. Essentially, he was the one consistently scoring player on the court for North Carolina. However, the Tobacco Road rivalry hype may have been the driving factor in his play, because Manek shot 20 and 25% from three in the two games following. 

Now

Duke on a seven-game win streak

Duke seems unstoppable. It is on an impressive win streak that has increased its ranking from No. 9 when they first played North Carolina to No. 4 now. Furthermore, with the exception of Virginia and Wake Forest, Duke has comfortably secured wins against its ACC opponents. In the Blue Devils' recent matchup against Pitt, they won by 30 points with a fairly even contribution from four of their five starters. With the confidence rolling as it moves to take on the Tar Heels, Duke looks to grab a win in head coach Mike Krzyzewski’s final home game of his career.

Elite scoring in abundance

Over the course of the season, Duke has arguably been the team with the highest ceiling in college basketball. Paolo Banchero has been the obvious cornerstone for the team, and Wendell Moore Jr. is a reliable leader. Surrounding these players are high-potential players that give Duke the edge. Griffin, Mark Williams and Trevor Keels are physical players that can break out on any given day, and each of these players have one or more 20-plus-point games over the Blue Devils' current win streak. This makes Duke hard to defend because it is hard to find their offensive weak spot, so the Tar Heels will look to stifle the impressive Duke offense in their upcoming matchup.

Tar Heels on a hot streak of their own

Similar to Duke, North Carolina has also had a very strong stretch since losing to Duke in the teams' previous matchup. The Tar Heels have gone 6-1 since their loss to Duke and have likely earned a spot in The Big Dance. However, most of their wins have been close games, especially their overtime win against Syracuse, but this shows their ability to close out close games. Additionally, in recent games, key players Love and Bacot have stepped up in contrast to their bleak showing in the previous game against Duke.

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