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Bloodbath Blues: UNC Visits Duke

On Saturday night the Carolinas will be divided. Two powerhouse schools write another chapter in their classic rivalry: it’s the North Carolina Tar Heels (24-6) at the Duke Blue Devils (24-6).

Both teams are ranked inside the top ten at #7 (UNC) and #9 (Duke) respectively in the AP poll. This will be the 49th time the two teams have met ranked in the AP top 10, the most all-time. The second-most is 14 (UNC and NC State). With this being the 261st overall meeting between Duke and Carolina, that means they’ve both been ranked in the top 10 for 19% of their games. That’s 1 out of every 5 times.

While the stakes are high, their rankings and season records have never dictated the work ethic of both teams. These teams come to play. College basketball fans are almost guaranteed to watch a competitive, heated game anytime it’s Duke versus Carolina.

The first head-to-head matchup this season was last month. North Carolina jumped out to a 10-point lead right before halftime and managed to stay in that sweet spot, defeating the Blue Devils with a final score of 93-84.

The Tar Heels were unstoppable that game, particularly Harrison Ingram with 21 points, 5 threes, 13 rebounds, and 4 steals on 67% shooting. Ingram had the hot hand and was the X-Factor in that matchup. When you pair Ingram with North Carolina’s super senior center Armando Bacot (25 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists), that is a duo not many teams in the college ranks can stop. RJ Davis even had an “off night” shooting and still ended with 17 points and 5 assists.

Duke hopes to split the season series this go-’round while UNC plans to play spoiler on the road. Either outcome can happen, but here’s how both teams need to play on Saturday to make that happen:



  • The Tar Heels and Blue Devils were last ranked in the Top 10 together for a head-to-head matchup in 2019 when Coby White put up 21 points in a 79-70 win against the Blue Devils. RJ Davis averages 21.5 PPG this season, leading the ACC. Davis will need to hit his shots and be on his A-Game for this matchup. And it wouldn’t hurt for Armando Bacot or Harrison Ingram to get going early and repeat their performance from early in the year.
  • North Carolina must lock in defensively. On UNC’s senior night, they beat Notre Dame because of how they played on defense exiting the locker room at halftime. After entering the 2nd half with a 16-point lead, UNC didn’t allow a basket until the 13:56 mark of that Notre Dame game. By then, it was too late. If UNC can lock in defensively and limit big plays, such as 3-point shooting and fast break points, it’ll limit energizing plays for the Cameron Crazies to get excited for — like the Kyle Filipowski windmill dunk last week against Virginia.



  • Duke has won 3 in a row and 8 of their last 9 since that North Carolina loss. This hot streak comes down to effort on the boards. Duke has outrebounded the opposition in all those wins. After losing Dereck Lively II in the NBA Draft last summer, the Blue Devils had issues replacing the defensive anchor in the paint. Instead, everyone on the team has stepped up to chase rebounds to have more possessions than their team.
  • The home-court advantage is real in Cameron Indoor Stadium. It’s a different environment. Students have pitched tents and stayed in Krzyzewskiville to get tickets to this game. Anytime you are in person to watch a Duke basketball game, the environment is electric and the crowd is deafening. It’s hard to think live and with a good Duke team this year, the Cameron Crazies are and will be a factor this weekend. Duke needs to make big plays and keep the score close to keep the fans engaged.


If Duke wins this Saturday night, they will have a share of the ACC regular season title. If North Carolina wins, they will be the outright, undisputed ACC regular season champions. But more than that, this is an intense Top 10 matchup we haven’t had since 2019. It’s Duke versus Carolina.

I’d argue the point Duke and North Carolina is the best rivalry in college basketball. But I don’t have to argue. Their actions on the court speak louder than my words ever could.

With that said, to my basketball fans, sit back and enjoy. It’s going to be a bloodbath!


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