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COLLEGE BASKETBALL: JAN 30 North Carolina at Georgia Tech

by Sharon Thorsland

It’s college basketball rivalry weekend and that means it’s time for the best rivalry in the game, or as some would call it – the greatest rivalry in sports. It’s #7 Duke taking on #3 North Carolina in Chapel Hill, the first time both teams have been ranked in the top 10 since 2019. These teams have been facing off since 1920, and they’ve produced some classics over the years. Saturday night’s version will be their 261st meeting, and certainly has the makings of another great game. The Tar Heels are coming off their first ACC loss after their 10-game win streak was snapped by Georgia Tech. They’re 17-4 overalls and 9-1 in the ACC, while the Blue Devils are 16-4 (7-2 ACC) on the year after a win over Virginia Tech. The game tips off at 6:30 on WBT.

In year two under coach Jon Scheyer, the Blue Devils started the season with high expectations and most of their play makers back from last year. They had some surprising losses early (at Georgia Tech and Pitt at home!), but seem to be hitting their stride – they’ve won their last three and eight of their last nine games. Sophomore big man Kyle Filipowski leads five players who are averaging in double figures, at 17.5 points and 8.7 rebounds per game. Senior captain Jeremy Roach is back for what seems like his 10th season, he starts at the point alongside super freshman Jared McCain, who has been outstanding in league play. McCain is averaging over 12 points per game, so is forward Mark Mitchell. Tyrese Proctor has stepped up his play in his sophomore season and is dangerous from three. Center Ryan Young and freshman Caleb Foster the first guys off the bench. Young is an excellent rebounder and will absorb some fouls for Filipowski as they battle Armando Bacot, who leads the ACC in rebounding.

The Blue Devils do a good job protecting the ball, they’re 9th in the nation with just 9.2 turnovers per game. They also lead the ACC at 40.3% from behind the arc, but defensively they’re awful against the three, ranking 186th in the nation in 3-point defense at 33.7%. The Tar Heels have been okay from deep but need Cormac Ryan to find his shot again, he was just 3 of 10 in the loss to Georgia Tech.

While the showdown between Filipowski and Bacot will certainly be key, slowing down RJ Davis will be job number for Duke. The UNC senior leads the ACC with 21.9 points per game. Roach was the primary defender last season but he’s dealing with a knee injury so it might fall to Proctor to try and slow Davis down.

Last season Duke won both meetings between these teams, holding the Tar Heels to just 57 points in each game,and they’ve won two straight in the Dean Dome. But the Heels are 9-0 at home this season, and they no doubt would like to exact a little revenge after last year’s losses. UNC looks to be the better team this season, but in this rivalry anything can happen. Go Tar Heels