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Virginia v North Carolina

by Sharon Thorsland

It’s round two of college basketball’s best rivalry as North Carolina hosts Duke at the Dean Dome on Saturday night. For the second straight match up, neither team is ranked in the Top 25. But this game always delivers no matter the records, and the Tar Heels certainly have a lot riding on this one – a win would likely get them into the NCAA Tournament, while a loss could leave them on the wrong side of the bubble. They’ve won three straight though after a win over Florida State on Monday night and are now 19-11 overall and 11-8 in ACC play. Duke is 22-8 (13-6) after a win over NC State.

The Blue Devils feature five outstanding freshman, led by big man Kyle Filipowski. He’s averaging nearly 15 points and nine rebounds per game, and can knock down shots form the perimeter as well as inside. Fellow 7-footer Derek Lively had quite the battle with UNC big man Armando Bacot in the first match up, with Lively racking up 14 rebounds and eight blocks while Bacot had 14 points and ten rebounds. UNC coach Hubert Davis says they plan to attack Lively this time around, and Bacot agrees. “When a guy is that athletic, with that size, you can’t really give him space. I’ve got to stay connected to him. That way, I can use my body to shield him off and gain contact, and hopefully, get fouled.” There was a great lack of foul calls in the first match-up – the Tar Heels only shot three free throws in the entire game – three! That needs to change this time around for UNC to pull out the win.

Another key in this game will be three-point shooting. The Tar Heels have been ice cold from deep way too often this season but seem to have broken out of their slump – in their past two games have gone 24 of 51 from behind the arc. But the real game changer of late has been the play of Pete Nance. He was awful against Duke in the first game but has picked up his play recently. When he is playing well this UNC team is tough to beat.

This is a huge game for so many reasons. It’s Senior Night for the Tar Heels, they’re facing their biggest rival, and they need a win to keep their NCAA hopes alive. UNC is 12-2 at home this season and I say they make it 13-2 after this one. Go Tar Heels!