Duke-North Carolina: What to Watch

February, 8, 2012
2/08/12
2:25
PM ET
North Carolina will be wearing the new Air Jordan 2012s. ESPN.com’s Eamonn Brennan has already analyzed whether Duke can defend.

We know that, at least judging by the past eight seasons, home court will hold little advantage.

And that Duke’s matchup with 6-foot-8 Harrison Barnes will be key.

And that the freshmen on both teams could be a factor.

But here are a few other things worth watching in the 233rd meeting of the two rivals, tonight at the Smith Center:

BARNES' HEALTH

To non-UNC fans, the constant updates on the status of the sophomore’s sprained left ankle are probably getting ridiculous -- especially considering he’s played quite well on the injury for the past two games.

But here’s the latest: He lacked his normal explosiveness during Monday’s practice. He won’t be 100 percent, but he’ll play.

"I was slow-moving [during practice],’’ he said Tuesday. “It's a matter of it being sore, but hopefully with adrenaline I'll be all right."

UNC’S D

The Tar Heels lead the league in field goal percentage defense in ACC play, and they’ve gotten better since Dexter Strickland, their best perimeter defender, was sidelined for the season by a knee injury.

According to Greg Barnes at InsideCarolina:
Prior to Strickland’s injury at the 16:44 mark of the second half against Virginia Tech, UNC’s league opposition was shooting 43.5 percent (93-of-214) from the floor and 37.5 percent (33-of-88) from 3-point territory. Since the junior guard was helped off the court in Blacksburg, North Carolina has allowed conference opponents to shoot 38.1 percent (102-of-268) from the floor and 31.8 percent (28-of-88) from long range.

Keep an eye on UNC sophomore Reggie Bullock, who has defended the opposition's top scorer since he entered the starting lineup four games ago. He may do so again tonight.

DUKE’S STARTING LINEUP

Forward Mason Plumlee is the only Blue Devil who has started all eight conference games, as Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski has pulled players in and out of the lineup to try to find the right combinations -- and light a fire.

Who will get the nod tonight?

Follow Robbi Pickeral on Twitter at @bylinerp.

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