Duke vs. UNC: Preview and Prediction

The team is playing the pack line defense as well as it has ever been played, and offers more at the offensive end than Brad Stevens' two national runner-up Butler teams. There will also be senior leadership inside, as Isaiah Wilkins provides just about everything except scoring at both ends of the floor after improving dramatically as a rebounder and finishing second in ACC defensive player of the year voting last season. The Cardinals have five players who have made 20 or more three-pointers on the season, and all of them shoot better than 34 percent from long-range. Keeping It Heel

Duke Blue Devils

Virginia Cavaliers

Growing up as a kid it was my dream school, so it's very cool for me to be able to say I could have the opportunity to play there, and for Roy Williams. They have a great program and staff who have really developed players well and have been very successful every year in the Pac Their program is very strong and I know I would come out a much better player.

The Tar Heels will honor coach Roy Williams, who has won three national titles in his 15 seasons at UNC, by naming the basketball court after him. Say goodbye to Deandre Ayton and Trae Young. Say hello to Zion Williamson, R. Barrett and Nassir Little and the next wave of highlight-reel freshmen. Spoke with SG Josh Green about his recruiting process. Kentucky is now making a real push.

He will look to cut his list right after the July period. Green is one of the more versatile and mature guards in the country. The top programs are looking ahead to their expected recruiting needs for Here's what they're targeting. These players, including Duke super freshman Zion Williamson, are coming to a college basketball highlight reel soon. UNC led the nation in rebound margin and offensive rebound percentage a year ago, hammering opponents on the interior. The paint is where the question marks are in Only one big man on the roster, junior Luke Maye, has college game experience.

Garrison Brooks is regarded as a solid rebounder and floor runner, making him an ideal fit. The keys could be two players who are wings by trade but who likely will play both forward spots: Theo Pinson and Cameron Johnson. Pinson is a point forward who can initiate offense, defend multiple positions and provide hustle plays.

At , Lykes will have to settle for being pesky rather than imposing at the defensive end, but he's an excellent athlete that excels at breaking down a defense off the dribble, and he's also a strong perimeter shooter with a dangerous floater.

Miami struggled with offensive efficiency last season without a true point guard, finishing rd in assist to turnover ratio, but with the arrival of Lykes that problem should be eliminated. The Hurricanes also return Australian Dejan Vasiljevic 6. Having more talented players around him and increased ball movement should make it easier for him to find open looks. Newton excels at creating shots for himself inside the arc, but he could see his playing time diminish as the team looks to become more efficient at the offensive end.

Larranaga will have high end talent available in the frontcourt as well. Dewan Huell, a top 25 recruit a year ago, performed well during the nonconference schedule but wasn't physically ready to compete inside in the ACC. With a year in the weight room, he should prove to be a more skilled and athletic version of the departed Kamari Murphy with a breakthrough sophomore year. Joining him may be junior Anthony Lawrence 6. Lawrence may also see time at small forward, but he's the type of skilled stretch 4 that Larranaga prefers.

The other starting option will be junior Ebuka Izundu, an athletic, high motor center developing slowly in the Tonye Jekiri mold. Sam Waardenburg, a redshirt freshman from New Zealand that was a 4 star recruit a year ago, is still a very lean but could see time as a stretch 4. However, this will be a very different team at the offensive end, and that should be a positive development. This Hurricanes team should score, and eventually even score easily. While the team will be very young, Miami will have the talent to match anyone in the ACC, and they have an excellent teacher that should have them ready to make a serious run by March.

December 14 pre-conference update: Miami is very much as advertised to this point in the season. Ja'Quan Newton remains the starting shooting guard for the time being, but with both Lonnie Walker 9. The Hurricanes are finding perimeter shots much more easily with the additional floor spacing, with Dejan Vasiljevic perhaps benefitting the most The teams currently ranks 36th in the country in 3pt. The Hurricanes will likely see their offensive efficiency plummet without Bruce Brown for the next six weeks, but with the exception of their matchup with UVA they will be facing a series of flawed teams down the stretch in the ACC and should still be able to reach the NCAA Tournament.

Although their seeding will likely suffer, if Brown is able to return by Tournament time the Hurricanes will still be dangerous. Miami is vulnerable to a strong Loyola-Chicago team, but fortunately the Ramblers don't really pressure the basketball so Miami may be able to generate enough points to break through to the second round by means of their defense and size advantage inside. Last season, North Carolina overcame the loss of two of their top three players and returned to the national title game to avenge their heartbreaking loss to Villanova with a National Championship.

The team loses a lot more than that this year, with three starters and two key reserves departing and predominately freshmen and sophomores available to take their place. Bradley's decision to stay in the draft is particularly painful, and will leave the Tar Heels to find a different approach at the offensive end. Even with all of the departed talent, the Tar Heels will continue to be a tough matchup with senior Joel Berry at point guard. Top 30 recruit Jalek Felton, a smooth passing, long and athletic point guard with a dangerous jump shot, could move into Jackson's spot.

He can't be expected to provide what Jackson did last season as a freshman, but he can be a solid complement to Berry. Felton can get lost at times, so a year off the ball with Berry should be beneficial. Even if he never finds his stroke, his passing, rebounding, and defense will be even more important if the Tar Heels have trouble scoring; this would be the perfect time for him to finally remain healthy.

Roy Williams will have three question marks with potential available to fill out his perimeter rotation. Kenny Williams showed promise as a 3 and D guard starting beside Berry to begin last season he was from three over the first 9 games , but a shooting slump and eventual knee injury derailed his season; Brandon Robinson was far too light to make much of an impact as a freshman, but he could also be an excellent perimeter shooter and defender with more strength; and Seventh Woods is an outstanding athlete that played in every game, but there just isn't much for a non-point guard that can't shoot to do at the offensive end.

All three were top recruits a year ago, and there's little doubt what any of them will be doing with their summer vacations. After bursting onto the national scene with a late game winning jumper against Kentucky, junior Luke Maye finds himself as the only returning contributor to the North Carolina frontcourt; he will now move into Isaiah Hicks' spot at power forward. His perimeter shooting becomes particularly important without a post scorer because of the need to spread the floor and create more movement.

The majority of the remaining frontcourt minutes will go to a pair of bullish 4 star freshmen in Garrison Brooks and Brandon Huffman. While neither is likely to be ready to replace Meeks as a post scorer, both offer similar size and athleticism to Meeks and should be ready to contribute on the boards right away, with Brooks particularly excelling on the offensive glass. With the three primary big men subject to foul trouble Maye can collect fouls in a hurry at times, and Brooks and Huffman are freshmen , Sterling Manley, a 3 star center, will likely be forced into action as well.

Rebounding should certainly fall off from last season when the Tar Heels led the nation in rebounding margin, but Maye, Brooks, Huffman, and Theo Pinson should still make it a strength, and North Carolina should still win on the boards most nights. This will be a very different North Carolina team with regards to personnel, but some of the things that make the Tar Heels great aren't going to change. Still, this won't be a top 10 offense or the number 1 rebounding team while replacing Jackson, Meeks, and Bradley with freshmen, so the expectations can't be quite as high.

While a third consecutive National Championship Game is unlikely, Roy Williams still has far too much talent, and far too much senior leadership in Berry and Pinson, for this to be considered a rebuilding year, and North Carolina should again take their place among the blue bloods in March.

Luke Maye has ascended to star status for the Tar Heels, posting He's also excelled at staying out of foul trouble, finishing with more than two fouls in just two games. That's particularly important as the freshmen big men provide little offensively, although the Garrison Brooks-Sterling Manley center combo has been successful defensive and on the boards.

UNC still ranks 2nd in the country in rebounding margin; with so much of the conference using smaller lineups they will still have an advantage against almost everyone with the likely exception of Duke in ACC play. Jalek Felton is coming along slowly as the backup point guard, but with Theo Pinson stuffing the stat sheet with 9. The eagerly anticipated return of Cameron Johnson from a knee injury will give the team a much needed additional perimeter scoring threat for conference play; with Maye, Joel Berry and a healthy Kenny Williams The Tar Heels have taken off of late after adding Cameron Johnson, moving Luke Maye to center for more favorable offensive matchups, and playing their starting five significantly more than they normally would.

Perimeter depth there is no real backup point guard with Jalek Felton's offcourt issues could become an issue, but the freshmen center duo plays well enough that the team can play bigger if needed and Theo Pinson can help facilitate offense if Berry gets into foul trouble.

The biggest difference from last year's Championship team is a lack of offensive diversity without a true post scorer and players that create their own shot something Jackson and Hicks could do last year , but UNC starts five players that can bomb the 3 and, despite starting small with Maye at center, still lead the country in in rebounding margin. North Carolina is North Carolina, and they will again be a threat for a deep run in March, although they aren't really the title contender they have been the past few years.

While the Wolfpack was unable to land one of the established big name coaches the fan base and administration originally targeted, they did manage to convince one of the best up and coming coaches in the country to come to town, an impressive feat considering the treatment of Gottfried.

Keatts steps into a situation with a still very talented roster and potentially unrealistic expectations of the program by the fan base. As good as Dennis Smith Jr. That won't be an issue this year. Keatts' first point guards with the Wolfpack will be young but talented and predominately pass first. The likely starter will be sophomore Markell Johnson, a top 70 recruit despite being an early entrant last year. He should be one of the most improved players on the team.

Batts, a top recruit, is a similar player to Johnson that excels at getting to the basket, although he may need to add strength to do so in the ACC.

Beverly is finally eligible after a bizarre NCAA decision was overturned following a barrage of negative publicity. He's a four star prospect that's smart with the basketball and put up a lot of points in high school; his perimeter shooting will be particularly welcome in Keatts' offense. While the point guards will be young, they will be flanked by high end, experienced shooters and scorers starting on the wings.

Dorn should benefit from Smith's departure as much as anyone. Keatts filled out his starting perimeter by adding graduate transfer Al Freeman, an athletic guard that averaged 9. The UNCW team Keatts took to the NCAA Tournament last season finished 4 th in the country in assist to turnover ratio; while it will be hard to repeat those numbers in the ACC with three young point guards, the Wolfpack should improve significantly in that area over last season, when they ranked th despite having a lottery pick at point guard.

However, that was at least partly due to the fact that UNCW was one of the smaller teams in Division I, with only their centers measuring over No such problems will exist with the Wolfpack, who are relatively loaded with size in the frontcourt and athleticism everywhere.

Abu's play leveled off in last year's disorganized mess He's an explosive athlete capable of more, and should benefit from the change at point guard. Also returning after considering the draft is sophomore Omer Yurtseven, who flashed potential last season but was ultimately part of the team's disappointment. He's another player that didn't really get many opportunities with the Smith show, and when he did he wasn't really strong or confident enough to be affective.

Yurtseven's agile, mobile, and offensively skilled both inside and out, and with added strength and a more defined roll he'll be a perfect fit for what Keatts wants to do offensively and might even live up to his original billing.

Senior Lennard Freeman 5. Keatts has grown accustomed to smaller lineups, so there is a very real possibility he will use Dorn as an undersized 4 at times, particularly when Yurtseven is off the floor. Again, there were many reasons for the Wolfpack's failure a year ago, but the biggest one was that in some ways the team just stopped trying.

While he won't have as much talent available as Gottfried did, Kevin Keatts should reinvigorate everyone, first and foremost by reorganizing everything the team does at both ends of the floor.

He likes to pressure the basketball and he will definitely have the athletes available to do so, while the offense stands to become more efficient. If he's successful and the team adjusts to his style quickly, the Wolfpack could still challenge for a spot in the NCAA Tournament in his first season. If that doesn't happen soon, things could get ugly once again in Raleigh.

The Wolfpack wasn't particularly impressive in non-conference play, but they didn't hurt themselves too much either despite Abdul-Malik Abu's knee injury, Braxton Beverly's eligibility issues, and Markell Johnson's suspension. After a slow start, Beverly has taken off and taken over at point guard in Johnson's absence, averaging 12 points and 4. When Johnson, who was having a great year 8. They take care of the basketball 47th in assist to turnover ratio , generate pressure 37th in steals per game , and defend the 3 point line extremely well 19th in 3pt.

Despite their young backcourt, the Wolfpack will be a threat to win a game or two in the Big Dance. NC State drew a tough matchup in Seton Hall, who takes care of the ball well enough to stand up to the Wolfpack's pressure, doesn't really rely on the 3pt. The Wolfpack will certainly have a chance, but they will have to outscore Seton Hall to do so the Pirates are an average defensive team. Although, like most of the ACC, Virginia Tech's year ended with a disappointing early exit from the NCAA Tournament, the season was a success overall and represented a major step forward for the program under Buzz Williams.

The Hokies have improved significantly each of his three years with the school, and the Tournament appearance was the first for the program in a decade. An offseason filled with unexpected attrition will leave the team extremely vulnerable in the paint, but a strong collection of wing players should allow Virginia Tech to remain competitive. While Seth Allen had an excellent senior year, junior Justin Robinson His new backup, top 80 recruit Wabissa Bede, will bring a similar mentality and skill set off the bench.

The most highly regarded new arrival for Virginia Tech is combo guard Nickeil Alexander Walker, who as a top 20 recruit is the first 5 star prospect Williams has signed at Virginia Tech. He'll provide another dangerous perimeter threat, and his passing ability should help the team maintain its offensive efficiency.

With all of the personnel losses, redshirt senior Devin Wilson will likely see time as well; he isn't much of an offensive threat, but he's an experienced point guard that takes care of the basketball and, as a former member of the Hokies football team, he provides another capable body at the defensive end.

While junior Chris Clarke At just , pounds Clarke's tremendously helpful at facilitating the offense and he allows the team to remain somewhat competitive on the boards the team dropped from th to st in rebounding margin just within the 9 games he missed, and Wisconsin destroyed the Hokies on the boards in the Tournament loss despite only playing with one true big man throughout the game.

He has missed significant time due to injury in both of his years with the program, and his health will be a key factor for the team's success. Unfortunately, the Hokies will face a major size disadvantage in the post.

With the late departure of Sy, Blackshear and Belmont Abbey transfer Nick Fullard will be Virginia Tech's only scholarship players over , and even with the losses Fullard is unlikely to contribute. While the Hokies may be able to compete on the offensive glass with their collection of athletic wings, defending the post, protecting the rim, and closing out possessions defensively are going to be major challenges.

With Sy's departure, that vulnerability will become exaggerated and, at times, virtually impossible to overcome. Buzz Williams should soon take Virginia Tech to the first Sweet 16 in school history, but late summer personnel losses will almost certainly postpone that appearance one more year.

Despite using a , pound player to defend opposing centers for 15 minutes a game, Virginia Tech has closed strong and will likely reach the NCAA Tournament once more. Virginia Tech will face a contrast in styles against an Alabama team that wins games at the defensive end of the floor, but the Crimson Tide plays horrible offense and the Hokies have so many people than can score that they should be able to reach the second round.

Those players will be missed, but some of the positive developments at the offensive end should continue to help the team moving forward.

Due to an offense that lacks movement and structure and can easily become stagnant, offensive efficiency is routinely an issue for Leonard Hamilton's Seminoles. Scoring is normally dependent on players creating their own shots; however, last year's team proved that Florida St. Part of that increase in efficiency was due to improved point guard play. The team has been lead by scoring minded combo guards at times in the past, but Xavier Rathan-Mayes eventually developed a mindset to create for his teammates, and Hamilton brought in two highly regarded, traditional point guards last year in Trent Forrest and CJ Walker.

Rathan-Mayes has moved on, but Forrest and Walker should be ready to take on larger roles as sophomores after being reasonably efficient with the basketball as freshmen. Having dangerous, NBA caliber shooters and scorers that can create for themselves is also a plus, and Dwayne Bacon's contributions in that area should be quickly and seamlessly replaced by top 30 recruit M. Walker is a strong and physically explosive , and is capable of scoring at all three levels.

The player that won't be easily replaced is Jonathan Isaac, and his departure will be a blow to the team's offensive efficiency. His efforts at the defensive end, however, should be more than adequately replaced. For the first time since Bernard James was drafted, the Seminoles will have a dominant shot blocker at center in Ikey Obiagu.

A top 50 recruit, he should be ready to contribute defensively and on the boards right away. Bouncy junior Christ Koumadje is still a work in progress, but he will at least allow the team to have strong rim protection when Obiagu isn't on the floor. Redshirt freshman Mfiondu Kabengele, who at has been developing as a stretch 4, will also receive opportunities in Hamilton's extended rotation. Leonard Hamilton uses a maddeningly long bench at times, but he does have plenty of talent at his disposal for that to be effective, and it obviously helps the team retain it's defensive intensity.

Although the departure of Rathan-Mayes and Jonathan Isaac will have some impact, this team also has the makings of another moderately efficient offense. Once Christ Koumadje returns, the Seminoles will have high end rim protection on the floor at all times, with the pair combining for a total of 6. The Seminoles don't match up well against Missouri, with the Tigers likely able to take advantage of Florida State's inability to defend the 3pt.

The Seminoles could, however, push through to the second round if they generate enough turnovers against a team without a real point guard that struggles to take care of the basketball. Louisville entered the NCAA Tournament with a well deserved 2 seed, but found themselves matched up with one of the few teams that could match the length and athleticism of their frontcourt and pull those big men away from the basket at the defensive end.

The Cardinals lost their most important player from that team to the NBA Draft, and will have to replace half of their frontcourt rotation as well; however, another strong recruiting class and an improving returning cast will again make them one of the most talented teams in the ACC. Off the court, the results of an FBI probe in September leaves 32 year old David Padgett, a former player and three year assistant under Rick Pitino, with the enviable position of taking over a talented roster and the difficult position of taking over for a Hall of Fame coach on an interim basis for a program likely to face a long probation and postseason ban.

While Mitchell was clearly Louiville's best player at both ends of the floor, Quentin Snider Despite his struggles in the loss to Michigan, the offense will be in secure hands during his senior year. For the first time since taking over as a sophomore, Snider will have a strong backup at point guard in freshman Darius Perry. A top 60 recruit, Perry is quick and aggressive at both ends of the floor and should help replace Mitchell's 2. Junior Deng Adel will take Mitchell's place at shooting guard.

Mitchell's departure will force the team to play differently, but personnel changes in other areas could make that palatable. Even though he only played He shot well from three when given the chance last season, and should display more ability to create than Adel given the opportunity.

Rick Pitino also made a surprise late addition by signing top 20 recruit Brian Bowen, but questions about his recruitment are at the heart of the FBI investigation. That could create more opportunity for Dwayne Sutton, who averaged 12 points and 7.

Despite losing three quality big men, the Cardinals will again have five quality big men available —one more than he can possibly give minutes.

He will again be among the leading shot blockers in the conference, and he'll help facilitate offense with his ability to pass the basketball. Mahmoud still isn't strong enough to be a great rebounder, which will make junior Ray Spalding that much more important. The most highly regarded new arrival for Louisville will be Malik Williams, an athletic, top 20 recruit with a strong perimeter jump shot.

He's also an imposing shot blocker, which is something this Louisville team will supply in droves. All three players are noticeably thin, but at this point bulky post scorers are so rare that it will only be an issue against a few teams.

Louisville also signed a second dangerous stretch 4 in top 60 recruit Jordan Nwora. The Cardinals haven't had a stretch four since Earl Clark, and they'll have the ability to keep one on the floor at all times this season. Louisville's ability to spread the floor will open driving lanes for Quentin Snider and make offense significantly easier for the Cardinals. A third four star freshman, Lance Thomas, is more of work in progress, but he should eventually display similar skill and athleticism to Williams.

Choosing Padgett to take over for Pitino at least means that Louisville will have continuity with regards to style of play; after three years as a player and three more as an assistant under Pitino. Padgett knows the system inside and out. Rebounding may fall off slightly they were 23 rd a year ago with younger, lighter interior players, but it will still be a strength. While the team will play without a secondary ball handler in the backcourt, the addition of skilled big men that can stretch the floor should improve offensive flow.

Donovan Mitchell will be missed, and it may take some time for the team to adapt offensively just as it did a year ago, but based on talent the Cardinals would be a threat to reach the Final 4 in in the now unlikely scenario of postseason eligibility. David Padgett will have a one year golden opportunity to prove himself as a head coach, although if he is able to earn a permanent position the roster will likely look very different over the next few years.

David Padgett is running the same system and on paper the numbers are very similar, but Louisville simply doesn't have the swagger of a Rick Pitino team. A road loss to Purdue was understandable, but a road loss to a flawed Seton Hall team that the Cardinals should have smothered with their pressure should be cause for concern, and the team's best win was against a struggling Indiana team.

It appears that the program will somehow avoid an immediate postseason ban, but an NCAA berth is hardly a given at this point. Their length will be a huge advantage in conference play, but Louisville doesn't pass or shoot the 3 well the Donovan Mitchell void is not being filled , which will make them vulnerable in the ACC. The decision to give Darius Perry more opportunities should help the team at both ends of the floor, although Padgett's commitment to spot up shooter Ryan McMahon, who doesn't help facilitate the offense or take care of the basketball and actually hurts the Cardinals at the defensive end, should be considered a source of concern.

If Perry is eventually able to replace McMahon in the rotation, Louisville could again be a factor in March. Louisville faced a backloaded schedule and reality has finally set in: Three highly regarded freshmen, including five star recruit Malik Williams, have shown very little in terms of either opportunity or development; the team has instead relied heavily on returning players to simply repeat what they were already doing, which doesn't bode well for next season.

Despite entering the season with completely unproven options at point guard and just one solid but undersized option in the post, Mike Brey once again had the next man up ready and Notre Dame again excelled in ACC play. The team did suffer a disappointing second round loss to West Virginia, but depending on matchups the Irish could have just as easily have made another Elite 8. Brey does lose two longtime contributors, but he's replaced more talented pairs each of the last two years.

The next man up at point guard was Matt Farrell, who looked like a completely different player than the one that played sparingly until the end of his sophomore year. Sophomore Temple Gibbs is the most likely candidate to replace Steve Vasturia in the backcourt.

Gibbs seemed to hit a wall in February, averaging 3.







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UNC Basketball: Predicting the starting lineup New, 11 comments Questions in the post, a young star, and health questions are the . After a disappointing end to the season, fresh faces will be ushering in a new era of Carolina Basketball. Joel Berry and Theo Pinson will never again step on the court in . The Tar Heels are in the midst of a four-game win streak as they travel to the KFC Yum! Center to face off with the Louisville Cardinals on Saturday night.