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Duke's defense will be tested by Tar Heels

2/8/2012

One of the most storied rivalries in college basketball resumes Wednesday night when Duke travels to the Dean Smith Center to take on North Carolina. In recent years Duke has dominated, winning four of the past five meetings.

Coach Mike Krzyzewski is 36-36 all time against the Tar Heels, and Duke is one of only two ACC schools with a winning record against UNC since coach Roy Williams took over (Georgia Tech is the other). Duke may have the recent history over the Heels, but the Blue Devils will need to step up their defensive game to continue their success.

Highest Opp. Points Per 100 Possessions Duke Since 1996-97

Duke has an uncharacteristically poor defense this season. The Blue Devils are allowing 99.6 points per 100 possessions, which puts them in the bottom half of all Division I schools. Duke is on track to finish outside the top 50 in that category for the first time since rankings were available in 2000, and it’s a bad time for the Blue Devils to be facing the nation’s highest-scoring offense (84.1 ppg).

Duke’s problems on defense are most apparent in the paint. The Blue Devils have allowed 31.5 points in the paint per game this season -- fifth-worst among power six conference schools -- and that will play right into a major North Carolina strength.

The Tar Heels average more than 40 points per game in the paint, the most of any power six conference school. They’ve grabbed 41 percent of their missed shots and average 16.4 second-chance points per game, both ACC-best numbers.

Carolina not only beats up opponents around the basket but also runs in the open floor both often and well. More than 21 percent of the Tar Heels’ offensive plays are in transition, fifth-most in Division I, while their 21.3 points per game in transition is second in the country.

Even with their up-tempo style, the Tar Heels have been excellent at limiting mistakes. North Carolina has turned the ball over on 17 percent of its possessions this season, lowest in the ACC and 10th-best among power six conference schools.

Duke G Austin Rivers Since Jan. 1

While Carolina has reason for confidence, one of Duke’s most highly touted players has been excellent of late. Guard Austin Rivers is averaging a team-high 14.5 ppg and is looking to become the first Blue Devils freshman to lead the team in scoring since Johnny Dawkins averaged 18.1 ppg in 1982-83.