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Feb
09
2012

Which team has a better shot at the Final 4, Duke or North Carolina?

So Wednesday night was another Duke\UNC classic with the Blue Devils stunning the Heels on a last second 3 point shot by Austin Rivers. Below you can find the ACC’s Digital Network analysis of the game with highlights. Well they are highlights for Duke fans. I got some thoughts on the game as well, and what it means for both teams going forward. Let’s start with Duke.

Ask most college basketball analysts and they’ll tell you the Blue Devils lack athleticism that they don’t defend well, and they don’t have a go to player. All true to a certain extent, but here’s the thing about Duke you need to remember. They have more RPI top 10 wins 3 (Michigan St., Kansas, North Carolina) than any team in the country. That’s nice but can Duke get to the Final 4?

This is battle tested team that won the Maui Invitational that had a field that included Kansas, Michigan, Memphis and Georgetown.  The Blue Devils have the mental makeup to get there. Mike Krzyzewski as recently as a few days ago said the the Blue Devils lacked leadership. I’m not sure if Austin Rivers is yet a leader, but his 29 point performance against UNC proves he can be that go to player Duke was looking for. There are holes still there.

I don’t like Duke’s interior defense. Miami, Florida State and Ohio State had their way inside against the Blue Devils, and I don’t think it’s a correctable problem. There just isn’t a lot of talent there. Duke also still really relies on that 3-point and if there is a night though shots don’t drop then there aren’t a lot of options.

That said if the Blue Devils can avoid the handful of teams with really physical frontlines, then yes they can reach another Final 4. They have played a quality schedule with several notable wins. What about North Carolina?

It’s time we let go of the illusion that this is a truly great North Carolina team. It just isn’t there. The Heels are still a gifted basketball team, and if they had Duke’s mental toughness they would be virtually unbeatable. They wilted late against Kentucky which can be forgiven, but they laid down against UNLV, they were humiliated at Florida State, and blew a double digit lead at home with less than 3 minutes left in the game against Duke.

You watch the Heels and at times they look like the country’s best team, but then they just can’t maintain it. Coach K complained about leadership on his team, but I think it’s the Heels that lack leadership. Kendall Marshall is a solid PG, Tyler Zeller and John Henson make up a strong frontline, and Harrison Barnes is as talented a player as there is America.

Who’s the leader? Is depth also an issue after Dexter Strickland’s injury? If the Heels find that extra gear, sure they are talented enough to get to the Final 4. They physically matchup with any team in college basketball but I’m not convinced that they are tough enough to battle their way to the National Semi-Finals. I thought the Heels had put the FSU loss behind them, but frankly Wednesday will be a far more difficult game to recover from.

Which team has the better shot at the Final 4? Ask me again in a few weeks, but today I think may have to go with Duke.


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