UNC beats Duke to clinch ACC regular season title

It was nip and tuck most of the way, but the Tar Heels got it together late in the second half to pull away over arch rival Duke, 79-71. North Carolina has almost a two-point lead over the next-best team in Jeff Sagarin’s computer rankings (which is the main way that I fill out my bracket), but I just don’t like this team to win it all. They’re sloppy with the ball, have poor spacing on offense and they missed a ton of free throws. But they have so much talent that when the game is tight in the second half, they always seem to be able to put together a run to put the game away. Really, they could win it all or they could lose in the second round to an eight- or nine-seed that plays a good, clean game.

Five Tar Heels scored in double figures, led by Tyler Hansbrough’s 17 points. Conversely, Duke was very content to walk the ball up and run its half court offense, which put the ball into the hands of Gerald Henderson, Jon Scheyer and Kyle Singler, and allowed them to go to work. Coach K really shortened his bench for this game — just three reserves played a total of 19 minutes (and they failed to score a single point).

The win should seal a #1 seed for North Carolina, and barring Duke winning the ACC tournament (coupled with an early round exit by Oklahoma or UConn), the Blue Devils are probably looking at a #2 or #3 seed. Check back tomorrow for a preview of all the major conference tournaments.

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UConn tops Marquette, Duke survives

– Jim Calhoun became just the seventh coach in Division I hoops to win 800 games as his #2-ranked Huskies beat #11 Marquette in Milwaukee, 93-82. (Apparently, Calhoun is worth his big salary.) A.J. Price scored a career high 36 points in the win. Marquette’s Dominic James is going to miss the rest of the season with a broken bone in his foot. His college career is over. UConn is likely to be ranked #1 next week.

– #7 Duke survived a tough College Park environment to beat a streaking Maryland team, 78-67. Gerald Henderson’s draft stock continues to shoot up the charts. He scored 19 points in a variety of ways, but none of his buckets were as spectacular as his down-the-lane jam in the second half. Check out the video below. (It’s at the 0:39 mark.)

Video

#8 Duke beats #9 Wake Forest

In a battle of two of the top teams in the ACC (and in the nation), the Duke Blue Devils jumped out quickly on the Demon Deacons, building a 22-point lead late in the first half before Wake slowly chipped away at the lead. They got within two points with under eight minutes to play in the second half, but Duke managed its lead and ultimately triumphed, 101-91.

Before the game, Wake Forest head coach Dino Gaudio talked up his team’s league-leading field goal percentage allowed, and then Duke went out and set the nets on fire. Duke shot 54% from the field, and Wake was even better, shooting 61% in the loss. It’s not often that a team shoots over 60% and still loses the game.


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Pay attention! #3 North Carolina visits #5 Duke tonight on ESPN

This is how a Duke/North Carolina matchup is supposed to be. Both teams are ranked in the top five, they’re tied for first place (at 7-2) in the ACC, and the winner will have the inside track to the conference championship. The game takes place at Cameron Indoor Stadium, a venue that even Duke haters will admit has set the standard for home court advantage. Duke was one of the first schools (if not the first) to put the student body front and center and that atmosphere has played a huge part in the Blue Devils’ success over the past two decades. (Though it should be noted that, with a win, Tyler Hansbrough could go 4-0 at Cameron in his career, so North Carolina has owned Coach K Court of late.)


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