ESPN loves to tell you that UNC and Duke are the only teams in the ACC. Some years, they are the only ones duking it out (wow, bad pun unintended), but this year it just is not the case. Let's look at the standings, shall we...
1.) UNC (21-2) [7-2]
2.) Duke (20-3) [7-2]
3.) Clemson (20-3) [6-3]
4.) Florida State (19-5) [6-3]
5.) Wake Forest (18-3) [5-3]
So, let's play what ifs for a second. This is a dangerous game and I'm in no way advocating that these will be the results, but it's a useful exercise nontheless. If Duke wins at home tonight, and UNC wins at home at the end of the season and they split the series, that puts both teams at three losses in conference. Let's say for sake of argument that Clemson wins out too. Again, preposterous, but useful.
If Wake Forest were to win out as well (hey if everyone else is doing it...), then they win the conference. Plain and simple, they own tiebreakers over UNC, Duke and Clemson. So even though this is a "big" game, don't make it seem like the only two teams that matter and the only two teams this effects are Dickie V's Darlings.
Again, I am not saying this is going to happen. The ACC is a fickle league and chances are, if anyone finishes with three losses, they will win the league. Heck, four losses could do it this year. But, it doesn't look like Clemson is going away anytime soon, and if Wake somehow makes it out of this week unscathed (a tough battle against FSU is their Valentine's Day present on Saturday if they can beat State tonight), they will establish themselves as deserving near the top too.
Honestly, Florida State will make a real case for themselves if they can beat Wake on Saturday. So don't say this is just Tobacco Road this year, baby.
Needless to say, any fan of basketball and the ACC in general takes an at least passing interest in the game. I'll be at the State game, so I won't see it. And since the Wake game isn't on TV unless you purchase it through ACC Select, you have no choice but to watch the Heels and Devils battle it out (unless you're a Lost fan).
Who is going to win? Well having seen enough of both teams to write a blog about both of them, I have my thoughts. Both teams haven't looked stellar in their last few games. The difference between Duke and UNC is, well UNC keeps winning. UNC's poor defense is starting to catch up with them. Virginia, a completely anemic offensive team, stayed with the Heels most of the game. Maryland dropped almost three figures on the Tar Heels.
Duke on the other hand is having trouble scoring in bunches, but the perfect cure for that is a team that makes you play uptempo and doesn't play great defense. Duke will find their shot again tonight. If UNC even stumbles with their shooting (which isn't a stretch to say considering the great defense Duke lays), Roy's team will be in trouble. Plus, Roy tends to have some problems in late-game situations if the game is close, while Coach K always has a run left in him in the last 5-10 minutes (see: Wake Forest game).
I think Duke wins this game. They're at home and they get up for this game. Big time. Just as simply, I think UNC will win the battle at the Dean Dome at the end of the season. For conference standings purposes, I will half-heartedly pull for Duke because they have the better chance of losing again after this than UNC, so any UNC loss helps the Deacs.
In the words of Dennis Miller though, of course that's just my opinion. I could be wrong. Post your predictions below.