UNC vs. Duke: Battle of Two Underwhelming Teams (Yes, You Can Be 19-4 and 20-3 and Be Underwhelming)

Duke’s lost twice, at home, to two inferior teams (Miami and Florida State). The Blue Devils were also spanked at Ohio State, and back in November, picked up two neutral court wins that they might not be able to notch now (Michigan, Kansas). If it’s possible, Duke is a 19-4 team that doesn’t look anything like a Final 4 contender.

The Plumlee brothers showed promise last year in a secondary role, but they haven’t improved. Ryan Kelly, so impressive in Maui Thanksgiving week, has been exposed by good teams who make him work defensively, don’t give him any good 3-point looks. Against OSU, Temple, Miami and FSU (all losses), he shot a combined 7-of-23 and scored just 23 points. Coach K can’t figure out whether to start him or use him as a reserve.

I still think in March, the Blue Devils will sink or swim with Austin Rivers. Coach K has to suck it up and concede he’s their best option to win. Get him the ball at the top of the key and let him go to work. Nobody can check him, and they’ve got shooters.

UNC (20-3) hasn’t been as impressive as I expected. With all the stars returning, I was expecting a team that might make a run at an unbeaten regular season. Instead, they have struggled to get up for road games (lost at UNLV, Kentucky and Florida State, the latter by 33), and often sleepwalk through opponents they have considerably more talent than (Wisconsin, Long Beach State, Maryland). It’s probably just apathy, which is curable, but what if Roy Williams can’t find a fix before the tournament?

This is UNC’s toughest week of the season – vs. Duke, vs. Virginia, at Miami – and anything less than 3-0 would be disappointing. After Kentucky, UNC’s got the most talent in the nation.

The Tar Heels are favored by six, and I’ll take them to win and cover, 76-65.

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