Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Duke-UNC: 5 things to watch

When you’re watching on ESPN or Raycom Sports tonight, the TV analysts will give their key storylines to watch when No. 3 North Carolina visits No. 6 Duke at 9 p.m. Wednesday night.
But there’s no reason to wait for the talking heads. Here are a couple of less obvious things to watch in the game:

1. Hansbrough in the post. In the past two seasons, North Carolina often has moved center Tyler Hansbrough out away from the basket, where he can take advantage of his improved “face-up” game.
There’s no reason for Hansbrough to venture outside the post tonight. Roy Williams is smart enough to realize that Duke will be thrilled to have Hansbrough 15 feet from the basket, where Lance Thomas is quick enough to bother him.
On the block, it’s a total mismatch. Hansbrough overpowers Thomas, every time. And if Duke double-teams Hansbrough, that leaves Wayne Ellington or Danny Green open for 3-point shots. Those are winning scenarios for the Tar Heels.

2. Duke may play some zone. Although Mike Krzyzewski loves playing the high-pressure, man-to-man defense that has been Duke’s staple this season, his brief switch to a soft 1-3-1 zone trap helped the Blue Devils stop the bleeding on Saturday against Miami.
The zone could help prevent penetration by Ty Lawson while crowding Hansbrough in the post. It’s worth a try, at least as a change of pace for a few possessions if Duke struggles.

3. Green is the key. Remember last year’s game at Cameron, when Danny Green led North Carolina with 18 points off the bench and a signature dunk over Greg Paulus? Green’s ability to block shots, his knack for steals and his 3-point shooting ability make him the ideal foil for Duke while everybody concentrates on Hansbrough, Lawson and Wayne Ellington.

4. Duke will go small. Meaning, 7-foot-1 Brian Zoubek is unlikely to play more than a few minutes each half because he’s just not quick enough to play at the pace North Carolina sets.
That puts a lot of pressure on Lance Thomas, Kyle Singler and Dave McClure to defend against Hansbrough and rebound against players who are bigger and more athletic.

5. UNC should fear Paulus. Nolan Smith, who’s coming off the bench, is a better defender at point guard and is a solid complementary player on offense.
But Greg Paulus, who shot 6-for-8 from 3-point range last year in a Duke win at the Smith Center, has more upside for a game such as this. Paulus is more vulnerable than Smith in a lot of ways, but gives Duke a more explosive scorer – which the Blue Devils will need to have a shot at winning.

- Ken Tysiac


Anonymous said...

This reporter apparently has never seen a Duke-UNC game before. Paulus has been exposed as a liability in every game he's played against UNC. He'll either be on the bench, or Lawson will slice him to pieces as a consequence.

MichaelProcton said...

"When you’re watching on ESPN or Raycom Sports tonight..."

Wow...sure wish I had the choice. Instead of watching the best-produced college basketball on the highest-quality HD, we get the Raycom "MD" (Medium-Def) signal and their 1980s high-school A/V class-quality graphics.