We are coming upon the first matchup that could shape the entire field of 68 on Wednesday. Every ACC game is important, but the No. 1 Duke Blue Devils (23-2, 11-1) and No. 8 North Carolina Tar Heels (20-5, 10-2)usually take their game to another level. This is their 46th meeting as top 10 opponents. As a result, the college basketball world should expect a show on Wednesday night.
As well as the Blue Devils score at times, they still don’t average as much as the Tar Heels. Behind Zion Williamson’s exploits, the Blue Devils are scoring 86.4 points per game. Well, the Tar Heels are scoring 87.5 points per game. It won’t be shocking if both teams surpass 100 points in this contest. However, that may come down to the proficiency from beyond the arc.
The Blue Devils are shooting 31 percent from 3-point range. In other words, they are 316th in the nation in 3-point shooting. Cam Reddish is the most lethal shooter, especially if he gets hot at 34 percent. Yet, Alex O’Connell may play a role if the Blue Devils struggle. Meanwhile, R.J. Barrett can do it all for the Blue Devils offensively. He can shoot it and get into the paint. However, the rest of the team shoots below 30 percent from downtown. Will they be forced to shoot?
Jack White has missed all 18 of his 3-point attempts since the start of the Syracuse game. In fact, he is shooting 4.5 percent from beyond the arc since January 12. During the first 13 games of the season, White was shooting over 41 percent from 3-point range. Don’t be surprised if White gets plenty of open looks when he enters the game.
Meanwhile, the Tar Heels are the second best 3-point shooting team in conference play at 40 percent. For example, Cameron Johnson is connecting on 48 percent of his 3-point attempts this season. He must be lights out if the Tar Heels expect to outscore the Blue Devils.
Both teams have three players reaching double figures on a consistent basis. Johnson leads the Tar Heels with 16.7 points per game. He’s joined in double figures by freshman Coby White (15.7) and senior Luke Maye (14.5) points per game. Maye also averages over 9.5 rebounds per game. It will be interesting to see how he fares in the post against Williamson.
Barrett and Williamson each score over 22 points per game. Reddish is the third leading scorer at 13.8 points per game. However, rebounding should be a huge factor if teams decide to miss. Williamson leads the Blue Devils with 9.2 rebounds per game. In fact, he earns over three offensive rebounds per game. The Tar Heels must keep Williamson off the glass. Otherwise, it could be a long night when shots hit the rim. Keep in mind, the Tar Heels are a top 10 team in rebounds.
Another key matchup will be between the two freshman guards. We talked about White from North Carolina. However, he will be hounded by Tre Jones in the backcourt. At his best, Jones is a defensive menace to the point where opposing guards have trouble bringing the ball up. As a result, White can’t play passively on the offensive side of the ball.
If the Tar Heels pull off the upset victory, they will create a three-way tie for first place in the ACC. However, a Blue Devils win would give the No. 1 team in the country a one game lead over the Virginia Cavaliers and a two game lead over the Tar Heels. More importantly, the Blue Devils have a pair of wins over the Cavaliers and last second victories over the Florida State Seminoles and Louisville Cardinals. That means the Blue Devils have an opportunity to go (5-0) against next four teams in the ACC standings.