Nothing in college basketball will ever compare to how good and bitter this rivalry is. This is the granddaddy of them all; only the national championship will be a bigger game this year. Even when these two aren’t ranked or even within the Top 10 — which they almost are every season — it is still the rivalry game of the year. These two schools hate each other and you can see it with the emotion they play with when they get together.
No. 8 North Carolina comes into tonight’s game against No. 1 Duke winning eight of their last nine games with the most recent loss coming at the hands of No. 3 Virginia.
If the Tar Heels have any hope of pulling off the upset against the best team in the country, then Cameron Johnson needs to play like the star he has been for them this year. The senior has been phenomenal for the Tar Heels this season averaging 16.3 points per game along with 5.4 rebounds and 2.4 assists.
Johnson will need help though and the two players perfect for that role are point guard Colby White and forward Luke Maye. The star freshman and future NBA lottery pick, White has been one of the sensations this year. He arguably had one of the best shots of the season that didn’t count this year against Virginia. He is averaging 15.7 points, 3.3 rebounds, and 4.3 assists per game. Maye is no poor man’s Tyler Hansbrough for this Tar Heel team either. Some would argue he is the heart and soul with his effort and energy level every night. The senior is averaging 14.5 points, 9.6 rebounds, and 2.1 assists per game.
Duke will come into tonight’s game red hot, winning 10 of their last 11 games, but riding a nine-game win streak. Their most recent loss came Jan. 14 against Syracuse. I think it is no secret in the two players Duke will be leaning on in this game. Zion Williamson and RJ Barrett, the future No. 1 and No. 2 picks in the upcoming NBA Draft respectfully, are what this team is. Duke would not be where they are today without these two. Their games offset each other so well with Barrett being the shooter and Williamson being the finisher at the rim.
Barrett is the guy you want taking the last shot of the team. He already has a game-winner buzzer beater shot earlier this year. He is shooting an outstanding 35 percent from behind the 3-point line and will only get better. He’s averaging 22.7 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 4.0 assists per game, which are outstanding numbers.
Williamson, on the other hand, might be the most physical specimen the game has seen since Lebron James. The 6-foot-7, 285-pound forward can not be stopped when he decides to take it to the rim. Not only is he good at finishing, but his defensive prowess is crucial. He averages two steals a game and one block per game which is extremely hard to do. The big man averages 22.4 points, 9.2 rebounds, and 2.3 assists per game.
This game will be excellent and one for the ages in this rivalry overall.
Final score prediction: Duke 85, North Carolina 81