NEW ORLEANS — It's just about go time in New Orleans for one of the most anticipated Final Four matchups in the history of the NCAA Tournament as Duke and North Carolina meet for the first time in tournament history.
And how fitting, of course, that it all comes with the back drop of Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski's impending retirement.
On Friday's Locked On Today podcast, the full episode is dedicated to a Duke-North Carolina preview as Locked On ACC podcast host Candace Cooper, Locked On Tar Heels podcast host Isaac Schade and Locked On Blue Devils podcast host JJ Jackson all join the show to give their perspective on this monumental matchup.
Saturday's matchup between Duke and North Carolina tips off at 8:49 p.m. ET on TBS.
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How can Duke win over UNC?
Candace Cooper of the Locked On ACC podcast joined the show to discuss how Duke can defeat UNC, and which matchups will be the biggest key.
“Truly in this tournament it’s been Jeremy Roach for Duke, I think he’s had a great run just from the way he's been a floor general for this offense and how he’s facilitated well and taken it to the rim," Cooper said. "I think his confidence has grown and he’s been called upon in moments and he’s delivered so I think he’s the X factor.”
Who has the biggest matchup advantage that Duke can exploit?
“You’ve seen these teams play each other twice now and I think AJ Griffin is certainly a factor in how well he can shoot and if he can match Brady Manek’s energy, I think he has a slight edge," Cooper said. "Not only is Griffin a great shooter, he’s also a great point man. I think if he’s going to be hot, it’s going to be a long night for Carolina."
Who wins the matchup inside?
“I think it’s about even," she said. "Armando Bacot getting double doubles whenever he wants and Mark Williams being defensive player of the year in the ACC. Everyone’s going to have to play their part and feed them, on either side of the floor. I think Mark Williams is the most NBA-ready person on the floor, but Armando is proving to me that he wants this just as bad as anyone else.”
What are the biggest concerns for North Carolina?
This UNC team has shown resilience, they’ve coalesced at the right time. If there is something to worry about for North Carolina, what is it? Isaac Schade from Locked On Tar Heels gave his thoughts.
“It’s matchups," he said. "The biggest problem for Carolina in this game is that Leaky Black is only one person. The problem for Carolina is they have to find a way to stop both AJ Griffin and Paolo Banchero. In their last game, Leaky Black was on AJ Griffin while Brady Manek guarded Banchero. There’s really no good way for the Tar Heels to matchup. There’s no help coming off the bench that can do that so that’s what bothers me most. I’m concerned that Manek can’t stop Banchero. The only way Carolina can win this game is if he can limit him.”
If you’re Carolina and you start losing these matchups, what can they throw at Duke?
“Since Carolina lost to Pittsburgh six weeks ago, they’re 10-1 and they rate as the No. 1 team in the nation during that time period. In fact, Duke’s defense in that span is 171st. The way Carolina was able to exploit that at Cameron Indoor Stadium is pick and rolls against Mark Williams. RJ Davis uses ball screen action with either Bacot or Manek and RJ Davis is able to exploit that matchup by driving or take a shot if Williams backs off, or finding Bacot rolling, or finding Manek for a quick three.”
Schade also offered his prediction on the game.
“This game is going to be close," he said. "I think there’s going to be nerves on both sides. I think Duke has more pressure on them because a loss means you let your coach end his career without a national championship. Carolina, to me is still playing with house money at this point…I think they ride that lack of stress that Duke has and I think Carolina wins a close game."
What will Coach K's impact be?
It's the thirteenth trip to the Final Four for Coach K and his final one. What will his impact on the game be? JJ Jackson of the Locked On Blue Devils breaks it down.
“I think it’s going to be business as usual for Coach K. He’s been in this position before…This is the 13th trip to the Final Four. Anytime a teacher can lend that message to students, I think Coach K is going to be prepared for this moment and he understands that at most, he’s got two games left in his career and he’s going to be ready," Jackson said.
It’s not like Coach K needs more to add to his resume. The legacy and all of the lives he’s affected over his career, but what would getting another national title mean in the grand scheme of his career?
“It would be quite the way to exit," Jackson said. "We’ve seen so many athletes and sports figures over the course of the years have amazing moments at their exit whether it be the 60-point game for Kobe Bryant, I think about Derek Jeter with the walk off hits he had. I think it would be the perfect exit for Coach K.”
What is the biggest concern for Duke in this matchup?
“Getting out in transition and shots from the outside are the concerning areas for Duke,” Jackson said. “The fact that in the NCAA Tournament, this Duke team has not taken a lot of threes…Duke is not getting a lot of point from the three point line where North Carolina, particularly in their matchups with Duke over the past few seasons, they knock down shots from the outside, Brady Manek being a key. Any time you’re trading twos for threes, that could be deadly for Duke if they’re not able to keep up.”