The Duke Blue Devils have a big opportunity in front of them to make a move in the ACC standings when they face the North Carolina Tar Heels on Saturday night. Duke has won three games in a row heading into their annual rivalry game with UNC and they hold most of the momentum, given, the Tar Heels took their first conference loss on Tuesday night to the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. For those keeping score of the head-to-head record at home, the Tar Heels lead 143-117 in terms of overall record.
The Blue Devils have won the last two meetings between the teams, including back on March 4 at the Dean Smith Center. Duke is 7-2 in league play and seemingly, the team has found its identity as they've lost just once in their last eight conference games heading into Saturday night's meeting. Take a look at the three keys to victory for the Blue Devils as they face UNC in a marquee matchup of Top 10 teams.
Keep RJ Davis & Armando Bacot in check
RJ Davis and Armando Bacot have both been stellar for the Tar Heels this season. Duke will need to key in on lessening their impact or it could be a long night for their squad on Saturday night. Davis is the leading scorer in the ACC (21.5 points per game) but Tuesday night was a potential wake up call for him and his Tar Heel counterparts. The Blue Devils should be aware Davis will be looking to get Bacot and others involved more in the flow of the offense. Davis finished with 28 points but he shot 11-of-24 from the field and 3-of-8 from deep while dishing out four assists.
Bacot took just eight shot attempts in UNC's loss to the Yellow Jackets on Tuesday. He leads the conference in rebounds per game (9.9) and he'll certainly give Kyle Filipowski all he can handle in the painted area. That's a number that should trend up on Saturday night. As Davis and Bacot look to play a lot more impactful in this Saturday's rivalry game, Filipowski, Mark Mitchell and Ryan Young will need to be ready to hold their own on the interior.
The Blue Devils are allowing just 67.2 points per contest as a team in ACC play heading into Saturday's matchup. They rank fourth in the conference in scoring defense while North Carolina isn't too far behind them in sixth allowing 69.2 points per game. It's certainly a game that should be a defensive battle as rivals collide on Saturday night. They'll need to limit Davis and Bacot on the production front or it could be a long night for Duke.