It was the perfect storm on Saturday at the Smith Center. Duke played arguably their best game of the season and North Carolina could not have played much worse. The equation led to a lopsided loss to the Blue Devils on Senior Night.
Seth Curry and the Blue Devils came out like a House on Fire scoring the first 14 points and never really looked back. Meanwhile, the Tar Heels could never find their shooting touch, shooting 33.9 percent from the floor for the game. A lot of that should be credited to the Duke defense but there were enough open shots missed to realize that Saturday night was not going to be their night. The Heels shot selection did not help matters, as well. Duke shot 55 percent from the floor and that stat was in the 60s for a good portion of the game.
The loss ended a 6 game winning streak for the Tar Heels after going to the small lineup, but should not deter them going into tournament season. UNC had been hot from three's going to the smaller lineup but on Saturday went 1-14 from behind the arc, that inefficiency will not likely happen again. Duke gained an advantage with their bigger lineup and Carolina had no counter punch from their strength, outside shooting. If the Tar Heels perimeter shooting had been close to resembling the success of the last 6 games, the game would have had a much different feel. It is reasonable to think that Carolina will find their outside shooting touch again as we move deeper into March.
On the pysche of the team after the Duke loss, Coach Williams was not sure, “Haven’t been around them at all, and that’s probably good.”
North Carolina will need to rebound as soon possible because they could see Duke again in less than a week. If North Carolina and Duke win their quarterfinal games on Friday, they will meet again on Saturday on a neutral court. After losing both regular season games against the Blue Devils, you have to feel that there would be a sense of urgency and more fire in the belly, if this scenario plays out.
North Carolina got the third seed in the tournament and received a first round bye. They will meet the winner of the Clemson-Florida State game Friday night at 9pm from Greensboro. Miami received the top seed while Duke got the 2nd and Virginia the 4th.
Carolina defeated Clemson on the road in their only meeting of the season and swept Florida State in their two head to head battles.
North Carolina enters the ACC Tournament with an overall record of 22-9. They have a golden opportunity to improve their seed in next week's NCAA Tournament in Greensboro.