Busting Brackets

UNC Basketball: 3 takeaways from an impressive high-scoring win over Duke

North Carolina scored a huge victory over Duke in Chapel Hill Saturday night, putting more distance between themselves and the Blue Devils in the ACC standings. What did we learn about UNC?

Armando Bacot punctuated the Tar Heels' win in style
Armando Bacot punctuated the Tar Heels' win in style / Grant Halverson/GettyImages
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3) Carolina has a championship-level defense

One concern that Carolina fans had coming into the season was how the team's defense would fare with such a lack of height in the backcourt. RJ Davis is listed at 6'0" and freshman Elliot Cadeau is listed at 6'1", but Carolina's team defense has been more than just a strength, it's been among the top five in the country.

The Tar Heels have great individual defenders. Seth Trimble, Armando Bacot, and Cormac Ryan stand out in that respect, with an unwavering intensity on the defensive end that makes the other team work for every point. As a team, UNC is in total sync. The Heels switch when they need to, they help in the paint, and they rarely leave an open shooter spotting up on the three-point line because of a failed rotation.

Duke scored 84 points, but let's just say they're going to be spending some time in the cold tub this week. Carolina contested everything, and Duke's early attempts at taking the Heels 1-on-1 into the paint only served to widen Carolina's first-half lead. Flipowski is good enough that even with Bacot fighting him tooth and nail, he was still able to get his. Like Bacot, his tremendous skill in the post is nearly impossible to stop, as he has excellent footwork, he finishes with the right or the left hand, and he can hit a tough fadeaway if all else fails.

UNC's defensive mastery at the three-point line has been the most pleasantly surprising development of this season. Duke shot just 5-19 from the arc, and this kind of thing has happened so often that it can no longer be attributed to luck. Carolina has only allowed opponents to shoot 29.7% from three all season, an incredible stat that has kept them in every game this season.

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There's such an emphasis on the three-point shot in today's game that having a perimeter defense as good as the Heels do is an enormous advantage. No lead is ever safe, but with UNC's ability to lock down the three-point line and knock down free throws, few teams are more equipped to close out a game. That will come in handy the rest of the way, and it came in handy against Duke.