Before I even get started on this blog, I feel the need to get this off my chest about my personal feelings about Duke University in the most bias way possible. If you’re a duke fan, don’t get all pissy and upset what I’m about to say. If you’re in my family, I know you’re overreact hence why I’m going to say this simple fact about Duke. If you know me personally, you’ll know I say this at least 15 times a year because to me, it’s the only way I can state my feelings about them.
Fuck Duke University. Fuck their floor slapping. Fuck their charges. Fuck Coach K (In all seriousness, I actually like K when he’s not coaching against Carolina), and most importantly, Fuck those nerds who jump and yell they call the Cameron Crazies. You know what’s funny about Duke? Well for one, they lost to Lehigh in the tournament last year. I know, I know Duke fans. You lost. But it’s still pretty funny that one of the most successful programs of all-time loses to a team that NOBODY heard of. If anything, you made them famous. Besides, Carolina lost to Weber State in 1999 in Seattle (I still get sick thinking about this game because it happened in my own backyard). It happens. Stop your whining and deal with the jokes.
The one thing that I’ve noticed is that whenever a Duke player makes a great play, they always seem to hug each other. Most teams chest bump, but at Duke, it’s more favorable to give a hug. If these players were hugging each other after winning, say the ACC Tournament, or winning the National Title, I’d understand it. But over one great play? That’s why folks invented the chest bump, fellas.
The funny thing about my Duke slander is that it’s not really “slander.” About 85% of Duke fans that I know are actually dope and it’s a back and forth trash talk. In fact, my cousin Chauntelle is a Duke fan and we talk about Duke all the time (Well not all the time. But you get the picture). She knows how I feel about them, but at the same time, I don’t mind Duke winning games but that being said, I’m not saying I want them to prosper ever, because I don’t. But at the same time, I don’t really sit and root against them unless it happens to help Carolina out (See Duke’s loss against Virginia). Most people hate Duke because they win. I hate Duke because it’s a natural feeling coming because my team is their rival.
If you think about it, Duke has helped college basketball but ruined the way they play a bit. Why do I say this? It has nothing to do with them winning. It has everything with the charge circle that was implemented in the college game a couple of years ago. Duke players used to sit and take charges underneath the basket. See: Greg Paulus.
Now that I’ve gotten that mini rant out the way, let’s talk about this game on Saturday.
Carolina and Duke will be squaring off again, and unlike the previous couple of years where the ACC Regular Season Title was on the line (Carolina won those games btw), it has a different vibe. Different vibe because I feel as it’s much bigger than the last couple of years because both teams are playing great basketball as of late.
I have to be honest here. I wasn’t expecting this Carolina team to be playing this well as of late. But then again, neither did half of the Carolina fans. After the asskicking Miami gave Carolina, I literally said “This team is heading for the NIT and that’s okay with me.” I mean, after Miami did the off-the-glass oop (I want Carolina to get another crack at Miami while they are reeling), I just sat there in amazement that my favorite team was getting styled like that.
Ever since that occurred, we’ve seen a different Carolina team. A team that’s more focused, and playing with heart, effort, and a desire to win.
Since Roy Williams decided to play the four guards instead of starting Desmond Hubert (Who actually gives great energy off the bench with his defense and rebounding), Carolina has won 6 out of its last 7 games with the loss being at Duke, in a game where Carolina seemly had control of the game for most of it. Since that point, Carolina has been on a roll with the smaller lineup that provides speed and quickness over power (That sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Coach K did the same thing with Olympic team over the summer). With the smaller lineup, the weakness is obviously on defense and rebounding. But if your guards are all going to contribute to rebound and show toughness to play bigger, then well……… I think you see my point.
Sophomore guard P.J. Hairston and Junior guard/forward Reggie Bullock have been on an absolute tear lately. The two of them have been combing for 33 points and 14 rebounds since Carolina has gone small. Often criticized guard (I don’t know if he’s a point guard but….) Dexter Strickland has 31 assists and only 3 turnovers in the last 6 games. Strickland looks like he’s finally healthy as he’s stronger than he was at the beginning of the season. Marcus Paige has finally figured out how to play college basketball because even though he’s not averaging a lot of points, his jump shot has gained more confidence. James Michael McAdoo (I call him #NappyheadLightskinNegro on twitter because he’s gotten to the point where I don’t even focus on his play. I focus on that ridiculous nappy afro he has. Have you seen him lately? If you haven’t do a google search. I mean my god, this dude needs to call a barber and get that haircut) finally has space to operate. McAdoo came into the season as a top 5 pick, but it’s obvious that he needs work playing in the paint. However, with this lineup, it gives space to operate.
Carolina isn’t the same team that was playing at the beginning of the season. Over the last month, they’ve come a long way. When I mean a long way, I mean that this team was a mediocre team who was gonna get at least a 12 seed in the NCAA tournament and lose in the first round. Now? The sky is the limit for this team. I’m not saying that Carolina is gonna make the final four or win a national title this year. I’m simply saying that they are a confident group right now, and they are playing well enough to make a bit of a tournament run that’ll leave all Carolina fans happy.
Duke on the other hand is coming in with some momentum also. Why do I say this?
The #WhiteArruh is back. Ryan Kelly (Who needs to shave that damn beard because it looks like it’s made of a rats skin) finally returned from his foot injury, and he’s been balling. I hardly credit Duke players, but Kelly’s play in these past couple of games have been remarkable. Against Miami, Kelly drops a cool 36 points and led Duke to a victory in a game that they almost ended up blowing. With Kelly back in the lineup, it gives them an opportunity to spread the court out. With Kelly back, Mason Plumlee can also have a bigger impact in the paint and you can’t just load up on him on the box. Rasheed Sulaimon, Seth Curry, and Quinn Cook also benefit on offense with the court more open to attack and create for others.
I haven’t watch a lot of Duke games lately because let’s be honest here; as a Carolina fan, I have better things to do. However, when I have seen Duke play this year, their defense hasn’t been like Duke teams of old. Granted, Shane Larkin is All-ACC (and probably conference player of the year), but last Saturday was crazy. Maybe Duke’s gameplan against Miami was to prevent passing lanes for Larkin, and make him a scorer, so they pressured the hell outta him. Larkin exposed them a little bit with his ability to attack the defense and get “rim runs” at will.
That being said, Duke is undefeated when Ryan Kelly is playing. 17-0. That’s some Kyrie Irving type of shit for Duke right now (Kyrie hurt his toe back in 2011 while Duke was undefeated early in the season, but then he came back in the NCAA Tournament and Duke soundly got ran out the Honda Center in Anaheim by Derrick Williams and the Arizona Wildcats). Eventually, Duke will have to lose with Kelly. Sure, Duke has won four true road games this year, but just glancing at their schedule, none of those teams that they’ve beaten on the road is even sniffing the NCAA tournament (I almost put Maryland in that list of quality teams they’ve been on the road, but I’ll wait until the weekend is over). Even though Chapel Hill is 8 miles away from Durham, it’s still a road game for Duke, and it’ll be interesting to see how they respond.
Most Carolina/Duke games that end in odd years are classics or somewhat memorable. Duke hasn’t won in a odd year at Carolina since 2001, the year they won the National title. Roy Williams has never lost on Senior Day at home against Duke, a stat that I found remarkable. Carolina has become a “mini” version of Duke. A lot of spreading the court out, and shooting a lot of three point shots. Most Carolina fans aren’t used to this style of play, but if Carolina is winning, then it’s all good with me. Duke will probably attempt to use their size and strength, and utilized Plumlee and Kelly heavily.
If any indication of how these two teams are playing right now, this game could head into being another classic, and from both sides of the rivalry, I think that’s the way both fanbases want this game turn out. No matter what happens on Saturday, one fanbase will be extremely giddy to beat a rival, and the other will be disappointed and upset. But that’s why it’s the best rivalry in all of sports. Even though Carolina isn’t ranked (They should be in the top 20 to be honest), they are coming in with confidence higher than Lil Wayne back in 2007. Duke knows that this win might put them in the conversation for a one seed, and a loss pretty much gives them a two seed, which wouldn’t be the end of the world.
All the storylines this game has, I’m extremely excited for Saturday. I’m ready for another classic in this storied rivalry. Are you?
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