Round 1 of up to a possible four round fight between two basketball powerhouses! (2 regular season match ups, with the potential to meet again in both the ACC and NCAA tournaments.)
You can't ask for much more in a regular season game.
You have two arch rivals, each with only one loss on the season.
Their national rankings:
What's at stake?
They are in first and second place in the ACC. Duke is up one game on Carolina in the regular season standings. So tonight can either put Carolina in first place (well, tied with Duke with their win over them as a tie-breaker) Or give Duke a solid two game lead, with only 8 ACC regular season games remaining.
But this breaks down to just more than 1st place in the conference. Both teams are potentially #1 seeds in the NCAA tournament. Both are fighting to be the #1 seed in the east region, which would have the team that gets it playing in Raleigh for the two games in the first round and Charlotte for the two games in the second round, which should provide the team in this position with a much easier route to the Final Four.
Both teams have been winning quite handily. Duke rates 3rd nationally in scoring margin averaging 19.8 points a game better than their opponents. UNC ranks 4th nationally, outscoring their opponents by 19.3 points per game.
As for overall scoring, North Carolina is #2 nationally at 91.0 points per game and Duke is #3 nationally at 85.7 points per game. Needless to say, you're going to see these teams run and both score a lot of points.
While writing this post I got distracted by the numbers. I was about to make a database to find the statistics I wanted to look up. Needless to say, I won't bore you with the numbers anymore.
At the start of the season, Duke looked to be good, but not great and UNC looked like a juggernaut. With Carolina struggling with it's last few games, there seems to be more holes in their armor than originally thought. Duke has looked to be the better team as of late though. The ACC has had 22 of its 43 games come down to the final possession–-defined as being decided by three points or less or going to overtime. Duke has had 1 all season, their lone loss, and none in conference. UNC on the other hand has four this year, all in conference and all within the last month.
There have been two main stories that the media have been covering in the lead up to this game. The first being the ankle injury to Carolina's starting point guard Ty Lawson, after losing their backup point guard Bobby Frasor earlier in the season to a knee injury. This slows Carolina down quite a bit, as Lawson is a speed demon on the court, and might give the Heels trouble with the Blue Devil's back court pressure.
The other story covered ad nauseum, has been about the foul that occurred last year between Duke's Gerald Henderson and Carolina's Tyler Hansbrough. Henderson was ejected for a flagrant foul and suspended for one game. Hansbrough ended up with a broken nose and had to play with a mask for the next several games. Both players say it was unintentional, although many Carolina fans disagree. Expect much taunting tonight of Henderson whenever he gets his hands on the ball.
A close match up, between two highly ranked rivals, for first place in their conference with NCAA implications. Fast paced, high scoring, with a dash of drama tossed in for zest. 9pm Eastern Time on either ESPN or Raycom/Jefferson Pilot, depending on the market.
It looks to be a good game. I won't make a prediction on the winner, because if you see my icon, I'm biased. But no matter what, this should be yet another classic in a rich tradition of classic games between these two annual powerhouses.
This is college basketball at its best.