Commentary

Duke, UNC battle for first in ACC

Updated: February 9, 2011, 11:43 AM ET
By Dick Vitale | ESPN.com

I cannot wait to get down to Tobacco Road on Wednesday when the Tar Heels and Blue Devils meet again. It is simply magical to see the names on the front of the jersey saying Duke and North Carolina, because there is so much intensity and passion when these kids take the court. My friends, the Duke-North Carolina rivalry is the best in all of sports!

This time around, the game has so much meaning as both squads are battling for supremacy in the ACC. Duke is 8-1 in league play when North Carolina is 7-1.

You have two Hall of Fame coaches going at it in Mike Krzyzewski and Roy Williams. Both teams are coming off impressive wins. The Blue Devils blew out NC State on Saturday, and the Tar Heels took care of business against a solid Florida State team on Sunday.

Both clubs have responded well after blowout losses. Duke looked great against Maryland and NC State after suffering a tough loss at Madison Square Garden to St. John's. There has been quite a difference in the defensive effort by the Dukies, which has improved significantly since their last defeat against the Red Storm.

The Tar Heels have bounced back after a 20-point loss to Georgia Tech. North Carolina has reeled off five straight wins, including the past three by 20 or more points.

The combination of Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith provide a dynamic duo for the Blue Devils. If Kyrie Irving was healthy, I believe we would be talking about an undefeated Duke team right now. Mason Plumlee has been re-established as a factor inside and he will have to come up big against a talented UNC frontline.

Harrison Barnes has looked more like the Diaper Dandy with great expectations lately. He had a double-double (17 points, 10 boards) against the Seminoles, and that was coming off games when he had scored 25 and 26 points. John Henson and Tyler Zeller will challenge Duke.

Kendall Marshall had 16 assists against Florida State and looks like the floor general the Tar Heels have needed. The Larry Drew II departure saga has ended and North Carolina looks ready for this battle.

Duke and North Carolina for first in the ACC on Wednesday night! It should be awesome, baby with a capital A!

Dick Vitale

College Basketball analyst
Dick Vitale, college basketball's top analyst and ambassador, joined ESPN during the 1979-80 season. His thorough knowledge of the game is brought forth in an enthusiastic, passionate style. Vitale also contributes columns to ESPN.com.

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