In what is probably the most famous rivalry in College Basketball, Duke will take on North Carolina on Saturday in the Final Four. Join us for a look at the key players to watch on each team.
Its Duke vs North Carolina in the NCAA Final Four
With a spot in the 2022 NCAA Tournament championship game at stake, ACC rivals North Carolina (28-9) and Duke (32-6) will slug it out in the 2022 Final Four on Saturday night.
The Tar Heels come into the game as the No. 8 seed, having won the the East region after besting Saint Peter's in the Elite Eight. The Blue Devils on the other hand are the No. 2 seed, courtesy of a victory over Arkansas that saw them clinch the West region. Unbelievable though it may be, this is actually the first time these two storied schools from the Tobacco Road will meet in the NCAA Tournament. To add further context, this is also Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski's last season in charge. Can the Blue Devils give their coach a title one last time?
The Blue Devils worth watching Paolo Banchero A power forward of a special make, Banchero will undoubtedly go down as the the last of the elite power forwards to play for 'Coach K' at Duke. At 6’10” and weighing 250-pounds, the Seattle born freshman has been a consensus five-star prospect in his first year with the Blue Devils. Averaging 17 points and 7.9 rebounds per game, he has been an integral part of Duke's run to a 30-6 record. For his efforts Banchero has earned himself ACC Rookie of the Year honors and the status as a consensus Second-Team All-American. Where the NBA Draft is concerned, some have even ranked him as high as No.1 overall and while that may not be the universally held opinion, the general feeling is that he will be a top-five pick come June.
Mark Williams Williams comes into his sophomore season after an impressive conclusion to his freshman year. Named to the All-ACC Tournament Second Team after averaging 18.0 points and 10.0 rebounds with 15-of-21 shooting (.714) over the Blue Devils' two wins in Greensboro during March, the Virginia native has been in consistent form coming down to the finale of the season. That of course has been steady progress from last season when he led the team in rebounds (6.1), field goal percentage (.684) and blocked shots (28) while simultaneously ranking fifth in scoring (10.8) in that same period. Williams is a Preseason All-ACC Second Team pick and was also included on the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Center of the Year Award watch list. The Tar Heels who are key Armando Bacot If there is one player who has been standout amongst an already impressive group this season for North Carolina, its got to be Armando Bacot. With an average of 16.4 points, 12.5 rebounds, 1.7 blocks and 1.5 assists per game, Bacot has been in sensational form all season for the Tar Heels. Indeed, his 12.5 rebounds per game ranks 3rd in the country. Some might even argue that he was robbed of the ACC Player of the Year award last year after an outstanding season. His work on the glass has been crucial to the Tar Heels success. He has been crucial on the glass for the Tar Heels and his ability to set solid screens has only served to help North Carolina's guard play. Should he choose to enter the NBA Draft this year he will likely go in the second round, but expect him to test the waters in the name of feedback.
Caleb Love At nearly 6-foot-3, Love can play either guard spot and shows significant potential on defense. A score-first point guard, he has definitely shown the ability to put his team on his back as he goes after buckets or focuses on link play. At the moment - and to the Tar Heels' benefit - he has shown himself to be more comfortable taking shots than setting up teammates, but make no mistake, his passing has improved and he has started to show his prowess in running a team. Indeed, that is perhaps all that remains to be seen with Love, whether or not he can run a team beyond college level? Once ranked No.2 point guard overall, Love's athleticism is clear but perhaps the question that needs answering is, can it thrive against Duke?