UNC Basketball: 2018-19 keys for Tar Heels to beat rival Duke

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CHAPEL HILL, NORTH CAROLINA – JANUARY 21: Nassir Little #5 of the North Carolina Tar Heels reacts during the second half of their game against the Virginia Tech Hokies at the Dean Smith Center on January 21, 2019 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. North Carolina won 103-82. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

1. North Carolina needs to utilize a potentially deep bench

Injuries have really hurt North Carolina this year. Sterling Manley was supposed to be the best backup front court player for the Tar Heels this season. He was actually a higher recruited player than Garrison Brooks. But Manley has only played in 12 out of 25 games this season. He’s on the right track to returning, but is still doubtful for the Duke game.

Seventh Woods turned a corner this year as the Tar Heels back up point guard. That’s until he got hurt, missed five games and hasn’t seen as many minutes since. Leaky Black was the third highly-recruited freshman and was making a solid contribution in the rotation. He hasn’t played since the end of January thanks to a high-ankle sprain.

North Carolina has Woods back, but Manley and Black are still on the mend. That has made way for Brandon Robinson. The junior was a top-100 recruit in 2016. He hasn’t scored over two points per game in his first two seasons. Robinson has seen an increase in minutes to 12 per game. But he still hasn’t been a consistent scorer.

Hopefully Robinson will turn a corner against Duke. The Blue Devils have the strongest starting five in the country. But their bench can sometimes be a little thin. Marques Bolden has held the spot as the fifth starter for 18 games, but Jack White and Javin DeLaurier also crack the starting lineup as well. The only other guy to see regular minutes is Alex O’Connell. Combined, those three guys are averaging just over four points per game.

North Carolina has the luxury of bringing a five-star, top-five recruit off the bench. All five starters are averaging over eight points per game along with Nassir Little. At first, it seemed like a stunt by Roy Williams. But as the season has gone along, it’s not a bad thing actually. Little is a great basketball player. Woods, Robinson and Andrew Platek have played in a lot of games for UNC. They can use that to their advantage against another young Duke team.

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