Duke’s win over North Carolina was a great win for the Blue Devils. But, more importantly, it showed the country something. Duke can’t beat Kentucky.
The fact is North Carolina is a worse version of Kentucky, and Duke struggled mightily with them while playing at Cameron Indoor. Teams like this are a nightmare matchup for Duke. The main reason why? Teams like UNC can play Jahlil Okafor one-on-one in the post and not leave Duke’s shooters open from deep. Yes, Okafor was banged up with an ankle injury last night, but when the Tar Heels made their run that’s exactly what they did.
Think about what Kentucky can throw at Okafor. Between Karl-Anthony Towns, Willie Cauley-Stein, Dakari Johnson and Marcus Lee, those are four very different players that can confuse Okafor, who is prone to turning the ball over.
Think about Kentucky’s defense now. It’s vastly better than North Carolina. The Wildcats have the No. 1-ranked defense according to KenPom while the Tar Heels are No. 66. The more disciplined Wildcats team will cause Duke problems with their size, something that causes trouble for most teams.
“But, Tyus Jones! He’s great in big games!” – Every Duke fan in the world.
Yes, Jones is fantastic against ranked teams. However, he has a history against Kentucky point guard Tyler Ulis. Just go back to the Peach Jam in 2013 when Jones was head and shoulders the No. 1 point guard in the class and the No. 2 overall player. Ulis came into the game against Jones as the No. 54 player and walked away with 22 points and 17 assists.
Finally, when it comes to rebounding, Duke just gives up too much. Kentucky isn’t a great rebounding team for its size but would do enough to keep Okafor and Justise Winslow off the glass. By neutralizing Okafor’s ability to create havoc on the offensive glass, it will allow Kentucky more opportunities to run and forgo a half court offense, despite Duke’s struggles on the defensive end.
So, enjoy the win over North Carolina. But be wary Blue Devils fans, it’s still a long shot to win the title, unless Kentucky gets knocked off.