The college basketball world enjoyed a plethora of exciting games yesterday, but none more exciting that perhaps the Tobacco Road rivalry – UNC vs. Duke.
This game had all the hype surrounding it – both teams were Top 10 in the AP Poll, Top 2 in the ACC and featured a bunch of star power. Some could say Duke had the upper hand, winning its past two matchups in the Dean Dome, but there’s no doubt UNC is the better ballclub this year.
The Tar Heels pretty much dominated from the opening tip. Both rivals shot very similarly from the field (UNC 50%, Duke 50.7%) and were nearly even on the glass (UNC 35 rebounds, Duke 34), but it was North Carolina’s ball security that made the difference. UNC scored 10 points off turnovers in the first half – en route to building an 8-point halftime lead – complementing that with five turnovers throughout the game.
UNC and Duke won’t meet again until Saturday, March 9 in Cameron Indoor Stadium, meaning there’s a full month of basketball ahead.
North Carolina will now turn its attention to a reeling Clemson program, which just lost a 1-point heartbreaker against UVA yesterday. The Tigers (14-7, 4-6) were ranked when they hosted UNC during the first Saturday of 2024, but have struggled against conference opponents. Clemson has been competitive in several ACC losses (1-point defeats against Duke and UVA), so it makes you wonder if the Tigers are better than their record shows.
What do the Tar Heels, who just enjoyed double-doubles from Armando Bacot and Harrison Ingram, need to do for a season sweep of Clemson?
Key to victory for UNC
It’d be amazing to have both Bacot and Ingram dominate in the post every game, but it’s tough to sustain that level of play throughout the season.
The Tar Heels only turned the ball over five times yesterday and – when the Blue Devils turned the ball over – took advantage of it. UNC scored 19 points off 11 Duke turnovers, while the Blue Devils only scored seven off the Tar Heels’ five.
North Carolina will want to take care of the ball against Clemson, but also continue to pressure the Tigers into turnovers. On Saturday, you saw firsthand what UNC can do with the loose ball.
Something to watch
Clemson lost to Memphis, UVA and Duke by a combined four points, with both the UVA and Duke losses by one point each.
If the Tigers had simply won those matchups, there’s a good chance they might still be ranked in the AP Poll. They’d also be 6-4, tied for fifth in the ACC instead of sitting in eighth.
I’m intrigued to see how well Clemson plays in Chapel Hill, a place it hadn’t won in until the 2020, COVID-shortened season.
What you need to know
WHAT? UNC (18-4, 10-1 ACC) vs. Clemson (14-7, 4-6)
WHEN? Tuesday, Feb. 6 at 7 p.m. ET
WHERE? Dean E. Smith Center in Chapel Hill, NC
TV? ESPN (Watch and stream the game live on WatchESPN)
RADIO? Sirius XM (Channel 193 or 389)
LAST MEETING? UNC won 65-55 in Clemson on Saturday, Jan. 5
ALL-TIME SERIES? UNC leads, 124-22
PREDICTION? UNC 78, Clemson 74