Preview: UNC at Duke

Ah, that screenshot gets me every time. When does someone get to do a follow-up with that kid? We call dibs. Any who…

Do we really even need a preview for this game? If you’re like most UNC fans, you’ve already scouted Duke several (see: dozens) of times and know their players almost as well and you know Carolina’s. You know that Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler will be the major factors for the Devils. You know that Mason Plumlee can rebound a bit but can’t score in bunches. And you know that about the third time the Crazies start up, “Let’s Go, Duke,” you’ll be laughing that they actually couldn’t come up with anything better.

But what does Carolina need to do to win and destroy Singler and Smith’s last home UNC game, much like Tyler Hansbrough and company did to J.J. Redick and Sheldon Williams (albeit not as exciting as a Senior Night)? It’s not like we need any incentive. This is Dook. Even in the Dougherty era games were competitive. Even the season K left the Dookies we had a match-up for the ages. Tonight’s the night you see what a team is truly made of. Last year at this same time in Chapel Hill we saw the Heels hang in there for about 36 minutes before letting the game slip away. For the season finale in Cameron the Heels were embarrassed. Don’t think players forget that. Dexter Strickland has talked about last year’s debacle and know the rest of the team feels the same way. This year has even more going on though.

UNC and Dook have always battled for recruits, but Harrison Barnes was different. The number one recruit in his class was wined and dined by Coach K with lobster  in the coach’s secret bunker volcano hideout home. Roy charmed him to pieces when he visited Chapel Hill and Finley golf course. But on signing day it was still a toss-up. Did K brainwash him the same way he did Eva Braun Elton Brand (it’s no coincidence those names are remarkably similar, by the way)? No, the skype screen froze with Roy Williams mugging and the team in the background. K was crushed, but he got his own blue-chipper in Kyrie Irving. Yet, another freshman point guard is more interesting.

There have been rivalries within the rivalry before. Take best friends Wayne Ellington and Gerald Henderson. Ellington got the better end of that, winning an NCAA championship while Henderson was apart of a desperate Dook squad and almost instigated a brawl in Chapel Hill his freshman year (Bobby Frasor said in hindsight he wish he had started one).  Now there’s another rivalry. Kendall Marshall and Tyler Thornton are now both starting point guards for the two highest profile teams in college basketball as freshman. The two are also from the D.C. area and went to school together in the 8th grade. But for their prep careers, it was head-to-head match-ups during the school year, and Thornton’s squads bested Marshall’s six of the ten times they faced each other. Including Marshall’s last game in a Bishop O’Connell uniform.

“He ended my high school career,” Marshall said. “It’s something I always think about.”

So chalk up more story lines to the already fabled history of this rivalry and expect nothing less than a great game tonight at Cameron Hansbrough Indoor. And if nothing else we can marvel at Ryan Kelly. He is also another chapter in the history of Dook anthology.