Found March 10, 2013 on Fox Sports Carolinas:
CHAPEL HILL, NC This was supposed to be North Carolina's re-emergence onto the national scene. The Tar Heels fell out of the country's consciousness two months ago after a series of ugly defeats, low-lighted by a 26-point drubbing at Miami. But, admittedly stubborn coach Roy Williams changed his stripes, switching to a smaller, more perimeter-oriented lineup ... and aside from a narrow loss at Duke, the Heels had been rolling since. But No. 3 Duke didn't have any interest in contributing to the suddenly fascinating Heels' new-found success, and derailed UNC on Saturday night while also inserting itself into the lead spot of national championship contenders in a 69-53 victory. With the Blue Devils visiting the Dean Dome, the Tar Heels had a chance to show disbelievers they had become a formidable foe with tantalizing potential to make some noise this month. Six-game winning streaks usually get people talking. But instead of UNC making a national splash and re-entering the Top-25, it was Duke making a statement on Saturday. In a season where seemingly nobody deserves a No. 1 regional seed in the NCAA tournament, Mike Krzyzewski's Blue Devils just might have ascended to the role of the national favorite and top-seed worthy with their performance. Duke's emphatic victory before a sea of baby blue was masterful at times, and Coach K's squad certainly had the look of a team plenty capable of stringing together six consecutive wins when the big tournament begins later this month. The Devils (27-4, 14-4 ACC) got back senior forward Ryan Kelly a week ago after a 13-game absence due to a foot injury, and he promptly went for 36 points in a home win over Miami as Duke avenged a 27-point defeat to the Hurricanes in January. Kelly totaled 18 in a victory over Virginia Tech last Tuesday but had only eight points against the Tar Heels (22-9, 12-6). But that's the beauty of this win for the Blue Devils. In the past two wins, Duke got a taste of what the 6-foot-10 senior forward can deliver, but this night was for the inside-outside punch that will be most counted on to deliver the program's fifth national title. Senior guard Seth Curry (20 points) converted his first seven field-goal attempts in helping Duke open leads of 14-0, 22-7 and 38-18. UNC junior P.J. Hairston said afterward that Curry's daggers carried psychological value as much as anything else. After the intermission, it was Duke senior center Mason Plumlee dominating on the inside with a 23-point, 13-rebound night. Fifteen of his points came after halftime. Carolina senior guard Dexter Strickland said Kelly had a lot to do with Curry's and Plumlee's success on this night. "He makes it easier for all of them, that is obvious," Strickland said. The Blue Devils aren't back to their cohesion of November and December, but they are creeping closer to finding that old groove. And when they do, what other team has made the strides Duke has in the last week? It is somewhat similar to a baseball team picking up a strong hitter in late August. But it's not just his offense, Kelly is also an excellent defender. It isn't any coincidence that North Carolina converted just 33.9 percent of its field-goal attempts and didn't drain a 3-pointer over the game's first 35 minutes. The Kelly affect and how he completes Duke is an all-encompassing thing. Thus, Duke is now 18-0 with Kelly in the lineup and this is the team the nation must face the rest of the way. "During the first 15 games with Ryan (Kelly), I don't know that we had the best team in the country by far. We had a good team, but we had the best chemistry in those 15 games," Krzyzewski said. "They really enjoyed playing with one another. They made each other better, and we're trying to develop that again. It doesn't just happen." If these last three games are any indication, Duke is rapidly reaching that point. How else do you explain routing a red-hot Carolina team in its own building? Strickland faced the 2010 national champion Blue Devils twice, so he has a keen understanding of what it's like facing a Duke championship team. "They're pretty good," Strickland said of the current Blue Devils. "They had Nolan (Smith) and those guys; they're both good teams. Tonight, Steph (Curry) was on and in the second half, Plumlee did his thing and they just had a great team. "They are very tough when those guys are clicking." Duke is clicking, but it can be better. As for confidence, it wasn't lacking at all on the Blue Devils locker room Saturday night. "I would take our team against any team in the country," Plumlee said when asked if the Devils were the team to beat nationally. "We aren't afraid of anyone and will play anyone anywhere. We're hitting our stride at the right time."

Duke Looking to Hit Its Stride

For weeks analysts, fans and even the Duke coaches have been talking about the Blue Devils getting Ryan Kelly back and re-integrating him back into the lineup. Duke has Ryan Kelly back but so far it isn’t Kelly who needs to step up their game. The thought was that with Kelly back, Duke would surge back to the top of the college basketball world. It appears that Kelly, whose...

Kelly-Hairston key matchup in Duke-UNC battle

The last time North Carolina lost a basketball game was 24 days ago when the Tar Heels fell short of beating Duke in the Blue Devils rowdy home. UNCs winning streak is now six games. On Saturday, the Tar Heels will welcome the Devils to their own home, a palatial palace otherwise known as the Dean Dome to most college basketball fans. Just like at Dukes Cameron Indoor Stadium...

ACC Morning Linkfest 3/9 with Game Sim Predictions

The last weekend of ACC regular season basketball is here.  Six games this weekend will decide the ACC tournament seeding and there is still a lot unknown.  Once the seeds are set on Sunday night, make sure to check out and submit your bracket for our ACC Tournament Bracket contest.  I'm still working on the prize for the winner, so stay tuned! The big matchup...

Four Blue Devils Make All-ACC Academic Team

Mason Plumlee, Ryan Kelly, Amile Jefferson and Rasheed Sulaimon were all named to the 2012-13 All-ACC Academic Team, which is pretty remarkable. Virginia Tech got two; no one else got more than one. With the UNC game on deck for Saturday, here are some links and a pretty good ACC joke as well, courtesy of our pal Melissa from Asheboro:   Three guys, a Blue Devil, a Tarheel and an...

Previewing UNC vs #3 Duke

The greatest rivalry in college basketball takes the floor again the night with a somewhat familiar story. Since Roy Williams took over in Chapel Hill, Duke has gone 8-2 in the first regular season game. As is often the case and is true this season, UNC finds a bit of a groove going through February that traditionally culminates with a win over Duke in the regular season finale....

Duke-North Carolina Preview

There's no doubt Duke and North Carolina will be in the NCAA tournament and quite possibly could meet again in the ACC tournament next week. However, both coaches are looking for clues about how their late-season tinkering will help play out those one-and-done situations Saturday night when the archrivals meet in Chapel Hill. By tip-off, No. 3 Duke (26-4, 13-4) will know if...

Duke-UNC: Expect Another Close One

There may not be a hotter team in the ACC right now that the North Carolina Tar Heels. Mason Plumlee and James MacAdoo’s match up will be one to keep an eye on. Despite the fact that North Carolina is unranked,  and up until this recent six-game winning streak was on the bubble to make the NCAA Tournament, the Tar Heels are actually favored to beat Duke by a point and a...
College Basketball News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.