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#14 Duke faces #6 UNC in ACC semis Friday
By: Staff Writer - StatFox
Published: 3/9/2017  at  11:23:00 PM
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Barclay Center – Brooklyn, NY
Tip-off: Friday, 7:00 pm ET
Line: North Carolina -3.0, Total: 156.5

#6 North Carolina will be looking to defeat rival #14 Duke in the ACC tournament semis on Friday.

Duke is looking to become the first five-seed to win the ACC tournament in the history of the prestigious event. The Blue Devils are certainly off to an impressive start, as the team beat Clemson 79-72 as a 6.5-point favorite on Wednesday and then beat Louisville 81-77 as a 1.5-point underdog on Thursday. The Blue Devils’ defense along the three-point line was the difference in the win over the Cardinals, as Duke held Louisville to just 4-for-21 shooting from the outside. The Blue Devils will need to guard the perimeter well on Friday or they could get crushed by a Tar Heels team that can really get hot from downtown. North Carolina just defeated Duke on Mar. 4, winning 90-83 as a seven-point home favorite. The Tar Heels shot 50.7% from the floor in that game, and they’ll be hoping to have another efficient performance like that on Friday. Duke has, however, gotten the best of North Carolina in recent years. Over the past three seasons, the Blue Devils are 4-2 SU (3-3 ATS) when facing the Tar Heels. North Carolina will not be too bothered by that, though. The Tar Heels are facing a Blue Devils team that is just 10-17 ATS when facing teams with winning records on the year.

The Blue Devils are coming off of an excellent win over the Cardinals on Thursday, and now the team will look to knock off their rivals to advance to the finals of this tournament. If that is going to happen then G Luke Kennard (20.1 PPG, 5.3 RPG) is going to need to be on his game for Duke. He was clutch against Louisville on Thursday, finishing the game with 24 points and 10 boards. A lot of his damage came in the second half, and he is not one to shy away from the big moment. Kennard also happened to have 28 points in the loss to North Carolina three games ago. It’s not hard to imagine him playing even better this time around. Duke will, however, need a lot more from G Grayson Allen (14.0 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 3.6 APG) on Friday. Allen was solid against Louisville last game, scoring 18 points on 5-for-12 shooting. He was, however, just 2-for-8 total from the floor in his previous two games, and he needs to be more aggressive on Friday. He’s dealing with some injuries right now, but he needs to toughen up and come through here. F Jayson Tatum (16.1 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 1.2 BPG, 1.2 SPG) is somebody that should definitely be able to have success in this one. Tatum was dominant against the Cardinals on Thursday, finishing with 25 points and three steals on 9-for-15 shooting. He’ll just need to make sure he is aggressive going to the rim, as he can’t fall too in love with the three-ball.

The Tar Heels have been one of the most consistent teams in the nation, and they should be looking at a one-seed in the NCAA tournament. A win on Friday would go a long way in securing that, and they should feel confident in their ability to pull it out. North Carolina will be facing a rival in this one, but the Tar Heels just beat Duke less than a week ago. F Justin Jackson (18.3 PPG, 4.7 RPG) will need to find his stroke for North Carolina to earn another win over this team. Jackson is just 3-for-14 from three over the past two games, and that is a lot worse than the 38.5% he is shooting from deep on the year. If Jackson can shoot closer to that average then the Tar Heels should have no problem winning this one. He will, however, need some help from guys like G Joel Berry II (15.1 PPG, 3.7 APG, 1.4 SPG), F Kennedy Meeks (12.5 PPG, 9.1 RPG, 1.0 BPG) and F Isaiah Hicks (11.9 PPG, 5.6 RPG). Berry II is a very good shooter, and he is also as tough as they come. He’s the type of player that thrives in games like these, and he’ll want to show up on Friday. Meeks and Hicks, meanwhile, are tough to deal with in the paint. Both guys should create a ton of problems for Duke inside.

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