3 Reasons Duke Will Be Better Than North Carolina This Season
While NC State may be favored to win the ACC, Duke should still be favored to win their rivalry with North Carolina.
The rivalry between the two elite North Carolina universities has certainly been more heated lately. The fire was fueled by competitors such as J.J. Reddick, Tyler Hansbrough, Kyrie Irving and Sean May.
Austin Rivers’ three-point dagger to win at the buzzer last season was only made more dramatic by the stage at which he did it.
This rivalry is like none other in college basketball. It is the benchmark by which all other rivalries are measured.
Each team knows that just 11 miles down the road is a bitter rival.
They hate each other, and they make each other better.
This year, though, Duke basketball has the advantage over North Carolina.
One area that Duke has the distinct advantage is their incredible experience.
The Blue Devils return six upperclassmen. Three of these upperclassmen are starting seniors: Mason Plumlee, Ryan Kelly and Seth Curry.
Contrast this with UNC who saw a mass exodus of starters to the NBA Draft. In fact, they have only two upperclassmen on their roster who have made any significant contributions to the team.
While UNC will have to rely on their incoming young talent, Duke will be able to rely on players that have answered the call time and again.
Plumlee, Kelly and Curry are all ready to take on the added responsibility of being team leaders, and their experience will certainly aid them in their efforts to do just that.
A Better Frontcourt
Duke enjoys an incumbent advantage in the frontcourt category.
They return both members of their highly successful frontcourt from a season ago.
While Duke also rotated the more physical Miles Plumlee into the front court, Duke often relied on Ryan Kelly to provide solid minutes in the paint.
Kelly’s ability to stretch the defense out to the perimeter fits Coach K’s system incredibly well. In fact, Kelly lead the team in three-point percentage with 40.8 percent shooting from beyond the arc.
Mason Plumlee was a direct benefactor of Kelly’s shooting ability. When Kelly would move out towards the perimeter, Plumlee was given more room to work with to both score and rebound. Last season, he averaged 11.1 points and nine rebounds per game.
Duke’s front courts stacks up nicely against UNC’s.
While UNC boasts talented power forward James Michael-McAdoo, they do not have another talented piece to pair him with, at least not a proven talent at the college level. McAdoo will likely be paired with a frontcourt committee led by freshman Joel James.
Duke’s talent, consistency and experience give them the edge in the frontcourt over UNC.
A Tougher Nonconference Schedule
Duke will be better prepared for the challenges they face in the ACC than UNC based on their incredibly tough nonconference schedule.
Coach K and the Blue Devils have incredibly tough matchups with Kentucky, Ohio State, Minnesota, Temple and Davidson.
While Kentucky and Ohio State are clearly the toughest matchups on this list, Duke’s other opponents are nothing to scoff at either.
Playing this tough of a schedule will prepare Duke for the incredibly competitive ACC this season.
Looking at North Carolina’s schedule, the game that sticks out the most is an away game at Indiana. The next toughest matchup would be UNLV at home. This Running Rebels team will not sneak up UNC again this season, and the Tar Heels will have a great home-court advantage.
Other than these two ranked teams, the only other possible challenge would come from Texas, a team that is currently not ranked.
Duke clearly has a tougher nonconference schedule, and they should benefit greatly from the challenges they face.