This season, I've had to adopt a new ritual: I truly believe a basketball game is going to take place if and only if I see an opening tip. Until that happens, I simply can't know whether a freak storm, a piece of debris falling from the arena's ceiling, or something else entirely is going to delay the festivities.
But let's be reckless and wacky and assume that the Duke Blue Devils and North Carolina Tar Heels really will play Thursday night (9 p.m. ET, ESPN). This game projects to be a way better contest than we might have expected from these same two teams, say, six weeks ago. Back then, the Blue Devils and Tar Heels were a combined 1-5 in ACC play.
Since that time, however, Duke and Carolina have combined to go 16-2 in conference play, and UNC is riding a seven-game win streak. If we can just get some cooperation from the weather, this promises to be a game worthy of the two teams' storied rivalry.
My colleague C.L. Brown has already covered North Carolina's in-season improvement on defense, and done so quite well. So I thought I'd complete this picture of a Chapel Hill resurgence with a few observations regarding the Tar Heels' offense. It turns out that Roy Williams' team has also been performing at a much higher level on that side of the ball during this win streak.
First, I need to make a correction, and by that I mean I need to correct the Tar Heels themselves. In C.L.'s story, he quotes Marcus Paige as follows: "[S]ince we're not the best offensive team in the world, we're going to hang our hat on defense."
Not so fast, Marcus! I'll have you know that you and your teammates have scored 1.12 points per possession over the past seven games. Maybe that's not the best offense "in the world" (I suppose that claim rests with the Miami Heat), but it's about as good as what we've seen from Syracuse all conference season long, and Jim Boeheim's men seem to be faring pretty well.