For Duke, they are hoping the third time is a charm. The first time that Duke and North Carolina matched up, Zion Williamson was injured less than a minute into the game after blowing out his shoe and spraining his knee. North Carolina won. In the second game, the last game of the regular season, still no Zion and once again, North Carolina won. On Thursday, though, Zion showed that he was healthy after scoring 29 points on a perfect 13 for 13 shooting and pulled down 14 rebounds in Duke’s win over Syracuse. Going into Friday, Williamson is healthy and Duke is hoping to get their revenge against their archenemies.
For North Carolina, they won their semi-final game against the Louisville Cardinals, 83-70. In that game, Coby White (19 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists) and Luke Maye (19 points, 9 rebounds) both had great nights. Speaking of Maye, it will be interesting to see what level of success he can have on Friday. In Zion Williamson’s absence in the first two games, Maye has dominated, but with Zion back in the interior it could be a whole different story on Friday.
The two will square off on Friday at the Spectrum Center in Charlotte, North Carolina. Tipoff is scheduled for 9:00 pm ET. In the matchup, Duke comes in as 3-point favorites playing on the neutral court. The over/under for this game is set at 164 points.
By The Numbers
Coming into this game, both of these teams are amongst the elite when it comes to the offensive side. North Carolina ranks 3rd in the nation scoring 86.6 points per game. For Duke, they come in 7thin the country, scoring 84.1 points per game. Duke comes in at 37th in the country in shooting percentage, shooting 47.5% from the field while North Carolina ranks 2nd in assists per game at 19.3.
On the defensive side, Duke is the better team. They currently rank 70th in the nation in scoring defense allowing just 67.4 points per game. They rank 1stin blocks (7 blocks per game) and 4th in steals (9.5 per game). They are also allowing opponents to shoot just 39.5% from the field (good for 17th in the country). North Carolina, on the other hand, comes in at tied for 221st in scoring defense allowing 72.9 points per game.
Duke Eyeing Revenge When It Matters Most
It is hard to beat a team three times in a row, especially when in the third game the best player on the opposing team will be back. That is what Duke is hoping for knowing that this will truly be the first game they have had with Zion Williamson. On the season, Williamson is averaging 21.6 points per game on a whopping 68.3% shooting. In addition to the points, he is also averaging 8.8 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 2.2 steals and 1.8 blocks per game.
The crazy thing is that he isn’t even the highest scorer on his own team. RJ Barrett is averaging 23.4 points per game on 45.8% shooting. He is also chipping in 7.5 rebounds and 4.2 assists. Aside from these two, the other main scoring options are Cam Reddish (14.3 points, 3.8 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 1.8 steals) and Tre Jones (8.7 points, 3.8 rebounds, 5.3 assists and 2.1 steals per game). The most impressive thing is all four of them are freshman.
North Carolina Knows They Are Going To Get Fight From Duke
Roy Williams has been around for a while and he knows better than anyone that his squad hasn’t seen the best of Duke yet. For that reason, the message after their win tonight has to be not to get overly confident and expect a dogfight.
Leading the way for Williams’ squad this year has been the duo of Cameron Johnson and Coby White. On the season, Johnson is averaging 16.8 points on 51.1% shooting, including 46.9% from behind the arc. He is also averaging 5.9 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.3 steals. For White, he is averaging 16.3 points on 43.6% shooting. He is also chipping in 3.2 rebounds and 4.1 assists.
One of the most important players for North Carolina, though, might be the big man, Luke Maye. On the season, Maye is averaging a double-double with 14.6 points and 10.5 rebounds. He is also chipping in 2.5 assists per game. In the first matchup, Maye scored 30 points and added 15 rebounds. In the second game, he only had 7 points, but grabbed 16 rebounds and had 7 assists. With Zion back, it will be interesting to see how well he can play in game 3.
Outcome Could Go Either Way
Let’s be honest, when these two teams matchup anything can happen. I like the way North Carolina has been playing in the second half of the season, but even without Zion Williamson, they were only able to beat Duke by 9 in their last matchup. Yes, that is still a decent win, but the best player in college basketball can have that big of an impact. North Carolina might be the more complete team, but I am leaning towards Duke in this one. It is hard to beat a team three times, and while Duke fully knows what to expect out of North Carolina, this is truly the first time the Tar Heels have played against a complete Duke team. For my money, I like Duke, especially when being only favored by 3 points.
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