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The Sideline Observer

Sports and Culture Commentary

Does UNC Have a Shot at Taking Down No. 1 Duke?

On Wednesday at 9 p.m. (EST) college basketball revisits the best rivalry in the nation.

No. 8 University of North Carolina will play No. 1 Duke University at Cameron Indoor Stadium in Durham, NC.

Last year, the rivalry was split 1-1 during the regular season (each team winning at home) and was followed up by a second UNC victory in the ACC semifinals. But plenty has happened since.

As a UNC student, losing the swag of Theo Pinson and Joel Berry has been tough. The rest of our starting lineup is still here: Luke Maye, Cameron Johnson and a struggling Kenny Williams.

The additions of freshman recruits Coby White, Nasir Little and Leaky Black have helped build the team a modified identity.

Meanwhile, Duke has brought in an entirely new team atmosphere, comparable to the Fab Five, with their inexperienced superstars.

While Duke’s legendary recruitment class is having a near perfect season, UNC is having difficulty. Allowing ACC opponents to shoot almost 43% from the field and score over 73 points per game is not a formula for beating Duke.

At this stage of the season, Duke seems nearly unbeatable. Since attaining their second loss against Syracuse University, the Blue Devils are now on a nine game win streak, (yes they beat Louisville). They’re not only coming off a historic comeback, but are soundly back on track after defeating the other Triangle school: NC State.

*Disclaimer* This is not the confidence boost we needed ahead of UNC’s matchup.

UNC’s Last Three Games

Loss to University of Virginia (69-61): It looks worse than it actually was. Kyle Guy was unbelievable and without his performance behind the arc as the game closed out, UNC would have won.

Overtime win over University of Miami (88-85): Where were the rebounds? Getting out rebounded by a team with a player who is 5 feet 7 inches tall is a problem.

Road win over Wake Forest University (95-57): This team needs to get hot before March if they want to be considered for a top seed. Everything felt right Saturday, a much-needed feeling after two shaky games and a win at Duke would put UNC on the right track.

Formula for a UNC Win

Coby White Needs to Ball Out

This is his shot to show the country he has something to prove. Coby has the potential to be a top-10 draft pick. The offense transforms when he gets going as he looks comfortable with the ball and can make threes at will.

Defend “The Dunker” Zion Williamson:

I don’t think any team has a formula for Rob Gronkowski, let alone the bigger Zion WIlliamson. Could Nasir Little’s athletic ability and height be the answer? Before you start ranting about Nasir, he and Zion are friends and my hope is that Wednesday night turns out something like the 2018 McDonald’s All American game.

Set up the Offense

UNC has had two teams this season. The one with energy that crashes the glass and the one that looks uncomfortable and sloppy. As a team that focuses on running at defenses in transition, Duke’s athleticism will pose a serious threat to our playstyle. If UNC can’t settle down on offense and find open shots or paths to the rim, this game won’t be close.

Take Care of the Ball

UNC is ranked 235th in turnovers per game this season (13.8 per game). Meanwhile, Duke is ranked 25th in the country at forcing turnovers (16.04 per game). This game has the potential to become messy if UNC doesn’t take care of the ball.


At the end of the day, the only Duke starter who has played in this rivalry is center Marques Bolden. Duke’s stars aren’t used to this rivalry, but they have played at home in the electric Cameron atmosphere.

The fantasies of rushing Franklin Street will become reality once again, but if UNC does not play this game perfectly, it won’t happen Wednesday evening. Make sure to look out for Obama who is reportedly expected to attend the game and go ahead and check out Roy Williams take on Duke as you prepare for the spectacle.

– Alex Jaramillo


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