Two regular season installments of one of the greatest rivalries in sports just wasn’t enough. Fortunately for fans of things that are fun, the third 2018 installment of Duke vs. North Carolina takes place at Barclays Center Friday night in the ACC tournament semifinals.
The game starts around 9:30 p.m. ET (it will start 25 minutes after the conclusion of Virginia vs Clemson, which starts at 7 p.m. ET) and will be broadcast nationally on ESPN. If you don’t have cable or can’t get to a TV, you can watch the game live on your computer, phone or other streaming device by signing up for one of the following cable-free, live-TV streaming services:
Hulu With Live TV: In addition to their extensive Netflix-like streaming library, Hulu now also offers a bundle of live channels, including ESPN. You can sign up for “Hulu with Live TV” right here, and you can then watch a live stream of the game on your computer via the Hulu website, or on your phone, tablet or streaming device via the Hulu app.
DirecTV Now: ESPN is included in all of DirecTV Now’s four main channel packages. You can sign up for a free 7-day trial no matter what package you choose, plus you can get a free Amazon Fire TV if you prepay two months. Once signed up, you can watch the game live on your computer via the DirecTV Now website, or on your phone, tablet or streaming device via the DirecTV Now app.
Sling TV: ESPN is included in the “Sling Orange” channel package. You can sign up for a free 7-day trial, and you can then watch the game live on your computer via the Sling TV website, or on your phone, tablet or streaming device via the Sling TV app.
Note: You can also watch the game on your computer via ESPN.com, or on your phone, tablet or streaming device via the WatchESPN app. You’ll need to sign in to a TV provider to watch this way, but you can use your Hulu, DirecTV Now or Sling TV credentials to do that.
There will never ever be a reason needed to watch Duke vs Carolina. But with both teams having split two really entertaining regular season matchups, and with both teams putting together such impressive wins in the quarterfinals on Thursday, the 247th head-to-head matchup is especially compelling.
We’ll start with Duke, who is playing as well as anyone in the country right now.
Their offensive ability is well-known. Gary Trent and Grayson Allen can shoot the lights out, Trevon Duval is a playmaking point guard capable of creating for others, and Marvin Bagley and Wendell Carter make up probably the most talented frontcourt in the country. The Blue Devils are second in the nation in Ken Pomeroy’s offensive efficiency rankings.
But it’s the defense that has vaulted the Blue Devils from good to scary over the last month. Since an 82-78 loss to Carolina in early February, Duke has held eight straight opponents–including North Carolina and Notre Dame, two of the best offenses in the country–to less than 1.00 points per possession. During that stretch, they are allowing just 59.5 points per game and 0.89 points per possession, with the only loss being by one point on the road against Virginia Tech.
“One trend that I’m seeing that is a good thing for our team is our defense at the end of the year is the best that it’s been all season, and that’s the same thing that happened in 2015,” Allen said. “At the end of that year, by the time the tournament came around, we were playing — we were one of the best defenses in the country.”
Against Notre Dame in the quarters, it was another comprehensive effort from Duke. Marvin Bagley had 31 and 17, the Irish were held to 5-of-23 from long range, and Duke rolled to an 88-70 win.
North Carolina, meanwhile, is coming off an equally impressive performance. Up against a Miami team that defeated the Heels in Chapel Hill just a couple weeks earlier, UNC stumbled out of the gate and trailed 14-0 after seven minutes. But then Roy Williams benched all five of his starters and the wake-up call worked, as the Heels outscored Miami, 82-51, over the next 33 minutes.
The Heels’ sometimes inconsistent defense stifled Miami to just 0.89 points per possession–the Hurricanes’ third-worst mark during ACC play this season–while Theo Pinson took over en route to 25 points and 11 rebounds. That’s a common theme lately for Pinson, who has become far more aggressive and is averaging an absurd 16.8 points, 7.3 rebounds, 5.9 assists and 1.6 steals over his last eight games.
With Pinson playing like this, it gives the Tar Heels three stars along with Joel Berry and Luke Maye. It also helps them survive games when one of those stars has an off night, as Maye did (1-of-15 from the field) on Thursday.
“We’ve always felt like we’re not just one guy, not just two guys.” head coach Roy Williams said. “Those two guys have gotten most of the accolades, but it is a team out there, and I’m happy about that.”
Put it all together, and you have two teams that are peaking just in time for their rubber match. If both play up to their potential on Friday night, we’re likely headed for yet another Duke-Carolina classic.