GameDay has probably had the best three weeks in its history. We started with a No. 1 vs. No. 2, in-state matchup with Memphis and Tennessee. Next, Michael Beasley put on a show in Phog Allen Fieldhouse against Kansas. And we finished our season with Duke vs. North Carolina at Cameron Indoor Stadium, which is one of the most enjoyable places to play and watch a game. On TV it looks like it's a 15,000 person arena, but it actually seats only between 8,000 and 9,000. All of the fans are right on top of you, and the students can touch you anytime you come close to the baseline.
The stars were out -- Matthew McConaughey, Peyton and Eli Manning, former Duke players Brian Davis, Jay Williams, and the best college player I played against -- Christian Laettner. From UNC there was George Lynch, who won a national championship in 1993. I thought it was funny that the Manning brothers were in the first row but that Christian Laettner, who went to four Final Fours, won two National Championships, has his number retired at Cameron, was national player of the year, and was on the original Dream Team, was sitting in the fifth row.
One of the funniest parts of the night was Jay Bilas surfing the crowd on a surfboard during a timeout. He did a great job and I'm glad he's okay. The last guy who did that tore his ACL!
It was interesting to see the differences in UNC between the first time the two teams met in February and last night. Ty Lawson didn't play in the first game. He wasn't 100 percent for this one, but he had 10 points, 3 assists and only 2 turnovers. He did an outstanding job penetrating the lane and distributing the basketball, and was a big reason why the Tar Heels had fewer turnovers in Saturday night's game (12) than in the first meeting in Chapel Hill (20) when they lost.
Danny Green and Wayne Ellington combined for 11 points in the first game. In this game, the two combined for 34 points. Green is my sixth man of the year. He has been fantastic coming off the bench and, outside of Tyler Hansbrough, he has been the most consistent player for the Tar Heels. He is a versatile guard who can shoot the 3, rebound and defend. He's tied with Deon Thompson for the team lead in blocks per game. At 6-foot-6, Green is one of Carolina's most athletic players.
Defensively, Carolina was outstanding. In the first game the Tar Heels struggled handling Duke's spread offense, defending the pick and roll, and running ball screens. This time, Carolina switched all ball screens, took away the 3-point shot, and made Duke a 2-point shooting team. The Blue Devils were held to 31 points in the first half -- their lowest first-half total all season -- and shot only 34 percent from 3-point range. Duke averages 84.5 points a game, and managed only 68 in this one.
The most amazing and interesting stat of the night was Hansbrough's free throws -- or lack thereof. Hansbrough is my college player of the year. He is one of six guys in the country who averages more than 20 points and 10 rebounds. And he loves contact; he even seeks it during a game. He gets to the free-throw line just over 10 times a game and shoots 81.3 percent there. But Saturday night, he didn't get to the line once. During the second half, I was watching from Carolina's offensive basket, and it was a very physical game. To say that Tyler was not fouled even once during the entire 40 minutes of play is interesting.
Despite the loss, Duke is a team that has a chance to make a nice run in the NCAA Tournament. I think there is a good chance that Duke will make it to the Final Four. The Blue Devils are an outstanding defensive team and run an offense that is extremely difficult to guard. They run the spread offense and at all times have five guys on the floor who can make plays, shoot from 3, penetrate and distribute. They don't have a lot of size, outside of seven-footer Brian Zoubek, so they are very vulnerable to teams with size. It affects rebounding and points in the paint, though the Blue Devils' ability to shoot from 3-point range allows them to make up for those deficiencies. Duke has five guys shooting better than 38 percent from 3, and if you allow the team to take those shots, you will lose.
DeMarcus Nelson really struggled in his final game at Cameron Indoor Stadium. He had no points in the first half and ended up with six points, shooting 3-for-12 from the field. He also had four turnovers. Despite his performance last night, Nelson has had an excellent senior season. He has been Duke's most consistent player. He is the Blue Devils' best penetrator and finisher, their best defensive player and their leader. His leadership is a key to Duke's success. It's an emotional night playing your last game at home. I am sure that Nelson had a lot on his mind -- his last home game, the ACC regular season title and a game against his biggest rival.
A lot people think the winner of this game will be named the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Region of the NCAA Tournament. By winning this game, UNC is the regular season ACC champion, but I think that is it. In 1991 I played in this same game, lost to Duke, beat the Blue Devils a week later in the ACC tournament, and got a No. 1 seed in the East. We went to the Final Four that year. Duke, on the other hand, won the regular season title, lost the ACC Championship, got a No. 2 seed in the tournament, and won the national championship. My point is, Duke and Carolina will probably be in the finals of the ACC tournament, and it wouldn't surprise me to see both these teams in San Antonio.