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Gameday is upon us! Random chatter on Duke-Carolina

It's gameday for Duke at North Carolina and if one lives in the Triangle area almost everywhere you go or look, somebody is wearing a shade of blue.  When the Blue Devils and Tar Heels come together, it's as if time stops until games end and once that happens one fanbase is extremely elated while the other deals with a tough couple of days.

Whether one walks into a convenience store, sits down to eat in a restaurant, works out in a gym, takes the kids to kindergarten, somebody is likely to ask you with often times a southern drawl, "Who you got tonight?" followed by a little smack talk as they bait you into conversation.  Some fans even worry themselves into a frenzy making one wonder if their should be a new addition to the DSMV manual.  Work productivity goes way down and sports bars make a killing.

Fans gather in droves to watch the game in a mix of both dark and light blue.  Others couldn't watch a game with the other side if they had to.  Many will put on their lucky charms and colors, some will go through rituals.  You can almost hear the pacing in households afar once the game starts and all hang on every single play, every call and ride a roller coaster of emotion that leaves them drenched in sweat from the stress by nights end. 

A bit later, I will meet with a co worker to eat and then head to Chapel Hill to the Dean Dome which is mere minutes from Duke University where car flags will be a flapping and the color goes to a lighter hue as you approach.  Once checked in, it's off to the media area for me, setting up a good two hours in advance and then talking with the throng of reporters from both far and near as the teams begin to warm up in the background.  And while the media cannot cheer on press row and must remain professional and objectionable, you can read their faces and clearly see who they're for and trust me, eveybody has a dog in this race if you are local media. 

Anyhow, here are a bunch of random thoughts going into tonight's game -

UNC favored by 6 points

When the line came out it caused several folks to raise an eyebrow.  Every single media person I have spoken to this week thinks UNC will win this game easily and or that the line is too low.  Many feel they'll go double digits on Duke and never look back and local bookies have added points to that total to try and keep money coming in on Duke.  I in no way advocate betting and only speak of this for entertainment purposes and trust me gambling has a dark side, so beware.  And while I am at it, if you are goaded into a sucker bet by the opposing fans and friends, it's your own fault.  If you want to take the chance of wearing the other teams colors for a week at work, go right ahead;)

Numbers, stats and more numbers

Everywhere you look there are people throwing out numbers and they prove to be quite interesting.  Duke has won 20 of the last 30 against UNC, Duke is even at the Dean Dome ... so on.  The truth of the matter though, is that when these two teams get together, you can throw conventional wisdom out the window.  But while I seem to be making fun of the numbers, I still read them and here is a must read article from my friend, Al Featherston at Duke Basketball Report that is well worth your time.

The biggest advantage for UNC is ...

It is not their front court of Barnes, Henson and Zeller.  It is not Kendall Marshall, the league leader in assists.  It is their experience.   The aforementioned front line all returned for UNC when all of them could have gone in the first round in the NBA draft.  These guys are battle tested now and for the most part the Tar Heels are an old team.   The Tar Heels fast break finishes a close second in my book and Duke must control the glass enough against the leagues best rebounding team to win.

Who is ready to step up for Duke?

Is there a Fred Lind or Reggie Love in the group?  Lind, then a bench warmer, went off against UNC in the sixties and has become a legend for his performance when Duke starting center Mike Lewis fouled out.  Love, a former Barrack Obama aide was a walk on from the football team that filled in when Duke had injuries to Carlos Boozer, outplaying his UNC opponent which helped Duke close out the Heels in their backyard.  For Duke to win tonight, it will likely take a player or players stepping up their game to a beyond normal level.

The last time out ...

Duke rocked UNC at the ACC Tournament and proceeded to cut the nets.  But that team had Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith.  Nolan scored 20 plus points in that game and dished out 10 assists.  This years Duke team is averaging just under 13 assists per contest combined.  Again, I point to experience and you can bet they'll miss those dimes and Smittys' on ball defense.  Remembering that loss could serve a a plus side intangible for the Tar Heels, who will be hell bent on revenge.

Plumlees have had success

Duke will need to hit the boards as a team tonight but I feel many are underestimating the abilities of Team Plumlee.  Both Mason and Miles have had success against the UNC front court but that help side defense from Singler is missing and Kelly and others will have to fill that role.  The key for Duke will be to keep Mason out of early foul trouble and to adjust as a team to the way the game will be called.

Young Devils will need to step up

This will be Austin Rivers first trip to Chapel Hill and freshman past, not matter how good they are have taken a beating at times in this series.  Rivers will be a focal point for the Tar Heels defense and seeing if he can rise past that attention will be interesting.  Quinn Cook will also need to be calm cool and collected and that will not be easy in a hostile environment.  Here is ESPN on how freshman will play key roles in the game.

A Duke loss will add pressure to the team

If Duke loses to UNC this evening and Florida State and N.C. State win along with Miami and Virginia which is all likely to happen, the Blue Devils will find themselves in a three way tie for 4th place in the ACC.  That in turn will make my job hard as much of the fan base will freak out on the message boards and quite frankly I do not look forward to that happening.  So, be forewarned that this loss could be devastating but keep your composure please and be a good and supportive fan.  Also, Duke would then face an N.C State team in Cameron this weekend that is a half game ahead in the standings.  Funny how big that game has suddenly become and getting that 20th win can get harder and harder until a victory is achieved.


Nice shirt there, Harrison! BDN Photo

That darn Harry guy ...

Harrison Barnes spurned Duke at the midnight hour and then chose UNC but he didn't exactly do it in what many would consider proper decorum.  His clunky Skype lives as a reminder to other stars not to go that route and few have done so since that time.  Interestingly, Barnes immediately starting loathing Duke after his decision and he is perhaps one of the more detested Tar Heels for Blue Devil fans.  But Barnes leads his team in scoring and the talk in media rooms is if the Tar Heels will get four players on first team All ACC.  Barnes is a huge matchup problem for Duke and any other team and he took a mild shot over the bow as he mentioned that Kyle Singler was gone and that he'd gladly take shorter players to the rack.

On paper it looks like a UNC win

Everything points to a UNC victory in paper.  Duke has lost two of their last three conference games in Cameron and Krzyzewski has been looking for upper classmen to step up.  UNC has up to four 1st team All ACC players starting. That game is in Chapel Hill and the Blue Devils seem to still be coming together as a team.  But you know what?  Duke has a chance any time they step on the court.  Duke has been beat down of late but if the team plays together anything can happen and that's why we watch the games.  My objectionable pick would be for the Tar Heels to win but my heart says Duke can pull off a shocker and make all the aforementioned worries go to the wayside.

Don't hold me to all the numbers mentioned for everything here was off the top of my head and just random thoughts before tonight's game.  BDN will be in the house to bring you live tweets and post game chats with the players, so stay tuned for our usual wall to wall coverage.  And yes, I am homer media, so I can get away with saying, "GTHC, GTH!"  It should be a lot of fun as the best rivalry in all sports is once again upon us.



St. John’s at Duke Game Notes

Game 21 • Coaches vs. Cancer Suits & Sneakers

[8 AP / 6 Coaches] Duke (17-3, 5-1 ACC) vs. St. John’s (9-11, 3-6 Big East)

Saturday, January 28, 2012 • 12:03 p.m. • ESPN

The Opening Tip

• Duke (17-3, 5-1 ACC) hosts St. John’s (9-11, 3-6 Big East) in its final non-conference tilt of the regular season on Saturday, Jan. 28 at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Tipoff is set for 12:03 p.m.

• Brent Musburger (play-by-play) and Dick Vitale (analyst) will call the game for ESPN.

• Duke is ranked No. 8 in the AP Poll and No. 6 in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll. St. John’s is unranked in both polls. The Blue Devils are 71-16 all-time when ranked eighth in the AP Poll.

• Duke is one of three teams (Baylor and Kansas are the others) in the NCAA to rank in the top 10 of the RPI, Strength of Schedule, AP and Coaches Polls.

• The Blue Devils had a 45-game home win streak snapped last Saturday and have not lost consecutive home contests since February of 2007. Duke has not lost more than one game at home in the last five seasons.

Duke-St. John’s Series

• Duke and St. John’s have met 20 times heading into Saturday’s game with the first meeting between the two schools coming on Feb. 4, 1938.

• The Blue Devils lead the all-time series 14-6, including a 5-1 mark at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

• Duke fell to St. John’s a year ago, but has won seven of the last eight contests in the series.

• Mike Krzyzewski is 14-3 at Duke against the Red Storm, including a 5-1 record in Durham.

• Duke has won five straight in the series at Cameron Indoor Stadium. The Blue Devils have a +23.0 scoring margin in that span.

• The Blue Devils have won 93 straight non-conference home games since falling to St. John’s, 83-82, on Feb. 26, 2000.

• Duke’s last two victories in the series have been by 10 points or less. The Blue Devils’ previous seven wins over St. John’s were all by double figures.

Numbers Game

l Duke has been ranked in the top 10 of the AP Poll for 86 straight weeks, the third-longest streak in NCAA history.

l Duke has won 93 straight non-conference home games, the longest current streak in the NCAA. The last home loss against a non-conference opponent for the Blue Devils was on Feb. 26, 2000 against St. John’s, 83-82.

l The Blue Devils have won 87 straight games at Cameron Indoor Stadium against unranked non-conference opponents.

l Duke is 59-2 at home since the start of the 2008-09 season.

l The Blue Devils are one of 12 teams in the NCAA with five or more players averaging 10 or more points per game. Duke has finished the year with five double-figure scorers six times under Mike Krzyzewski.

l Austin Rivers, a four-time ACC Rookie of the Week selection, is averaging a team-high 14.2 points per game. Johnny Dawkins was the last Blue Devil freshman to lead the team in scoring in 1983.

l Mason Plumlee collected his eighth double-double of the season (tied for most in the ACC) with 23 points and 12 rebounds in Wednesday’s win over Maryland. He has collected 12 or more rebounds in a game 12 times this season.

l Ryan Kelly is shooting 47.2 percent (25-of-53) from three-point range on the season, including 51.9 percent (14-of-27) over the last 11 games. He shot just 30.7 percent (27-of-88) in his first two seasons at Duke.

l Mason Plumlee and Miles Plumlee combine to average 15.7 rebounds per game. One of the Plumlees has led the team in rebounds in 18 of 20 games.

l Tyler Thornton leads the ACC in assist-to-turnover ratio (6.7:1) through six conference games. He has 20 assists with just three turnovers in the last six games for the Blue Devils.

l Mason Plumlee has improved his free throw shooting over the last four games, going 15-of-18 (.833) from the line during that span. He was shooting 39.8 percent (37-of-93) from the free throw line prior to that stretch. Plumlee averages 5.6 free throw attempts per game.

l Austin Rivers is averaging a team-high 15.7 ppg. at home this season. He is shooting 51.5 percent from the field, including 43.2 percent from three-point range, in 10 games at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

l Andre Dawkins is averaging 4.0 threes per game and 15.5 ppg. over the last four contests.

l Duke University is honoring the All-American Athletic Association on Saturday. This is their 40th year as ushers in Cameron, and since 1972, they have raised over $450,000 for local charities.

Rivers career high 20 points helps Duke defeat #15 Michigan

It's not even Thanksgiving yet and the Duke Men's Basketball team is already 6-0 with wins over quality teams.  The Blue Devils added to their March resume by defeating #15 Michigan 82-75 and in the process advance to the championship game of the EA Sports Maui Invitational.

Austin Rivers scored the ball well with a career high 20 points.  The dandy freshman drew  Tim Hardaway Jr. for most of the night and he held him with help from his teammates to 0 in the first half.  Hardaway would warm up to score 19 points, all in the second half, but Duke was never really threatened after going out to a double digit plus lead.

Seth Curry added 17 points for Duke and continues his consistent, silky smooth play.  Ryan Kelly has now had back to back great games where he scored 17 points and went a stellar 9 of 10 from the free throw stripe.  Andre Dawkins was the other Blue Devil in double figures with 14 points and 4 three pointers.

The Blue Devils handled the Wolverines vaunted 1-3-1 defense with tight guard play.  That combined with 11 three pointers at a plus 50% clip and the Blue Devils remain undefeated on the season and they have yet to lose in the Maui Invitational.  The Blue Devils will face the winner of the UCLA-Kansas game which guarantees a match up against on the the all time best college basketball programs.

BDN's Terry Rains will be adding some video interviews shortly where he is on the scene in Hawaii, so stay tuned for that.