It’s that time of year again: Duke versus North Carolina. Ahead of the marquee matchup at Cameron Indoor Stadium Saturday evening, the Blue Zone is here with a potential X-factor for both teams in the Triangle’s premier basketball rivalry:
Duke: Kyle Filipowski
Big moments call for big players. And a highly anticipated, nail-biter matchup against Duke’s arch-nemesis calls for even bigger players. Lucky for the Blue Devils, it looks like they have found the next heir to the long-lasting legacy of bucket-getting luminaries: Kyle Filipowski.
Filipowski, already a seven-time ACC Rookie of the Week recipient, has been the most notable player in the inaugural season of head coach Jon Scheyer. He’s started in all 22 of Duke’s games, averaging a team-high 15.8 points and 9.5 rebounds. In the close win against Wake Forest, the freshman center logged all of Duke’s final seven points, keeping the Blue Devils’ undefeated streak at Cameron Indoor Stadium alive.
A good shooting night and dominance in the paint are what Duke desperately needs to offset the Tar Heels’ offensive firepower. As such, Filipowski’s size in the paint, elite rebounding,and proficient scoring will be vital, should the Blue Devils be able to take down a star-stacked North Carolina team.
North Carolina: Armando Bacot
He’s done it once, and he can do it again. The last time Armando Bacot played at Cameron Indoor, he was virtually unguardable—he stuffed the stat sheets, putting up 23 points, seven rebounds, two blocks and two steals. Now he returns to Durham with his eyes set on one thing: embarrassing the Blue Devils in front of the Cameron Crazies.
To Duke’s disadvantage, Bacot’s size and raw athleticism make him one of the hardest players to guard in the league. Not to mention, with four years of collegiate basketball experience under his belt, he knows where to be and how to score. The senior center, when given space, will muscle his way through contact to approach the rim, where he can finish with ease.
Bacot put his offensive arsenal on full display In a recent matchup against N.C. State—the Virginia native dominated in the paint, finishing with 23 points and 18 rebounds. To what extent will he be able to deliver against Duke’s front-page shot blocker Dereck Lively II or an experienced center in Ryan Young will be a difference maker in Saturday’s showdown? History says a lot, but only time will tell.
Editor's note: This article is one of many in The Chronicle and The Daily Tar Heel's annual rivalry edition. Find the rest of The Chronicle's coverage here, and follow along with the full Rivalry Challenge here.
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