Even if Duke get a bit too much love in the polls and don’t deserve to be a number one seed in the NCAA tournament when that decision is made, they’re still a pretty good team with two outstanding players in Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood, leading them to an impressive regular season ending win over North Carolina.
Duke won 93-81, avenging their previous loss in Chapel Hill three weeks ago. It means both the Blue Devils and Tar Heels finish the season at 13-5 in the conference, with Duke as the #3 team and North Carolina finishing at #4.
This was a sepcial night for Parker, playing like he’s no longer a freshman, displaying how he has developed this year, turning into the #1 pick in the upcoming draft if he does choose to leave after only one season of collegeb basketball. He finished with 30 points (only the 4th freshman in Duke history to reach that mark), displaying his ability to score inside and outside, getting a lot of help from Hood, adding 24 points. Parker also grabbed 11 rebounds, including four on offense.
And it was Duke attacking the boards, finishing with 16 offensive rebounds and a 34-20 win overall in that category that got them the double digit win. They rebounded 53% of their missed shots (shot 50.9% overall), and beat North Carolina 20-10 in second chance points. Parker, once again, was the one who enjoyed that dominance more than anyone, scoring 10 second-chance on his own.
Parker enjoyed not having James Michael McAdoo guarding him because of foul trouble, finally getting a solid night with 10 points from outside the paint. McAdoo covered Parker on only two attempts because of his fouls (finished with 4, Tokoto fouled out with 5), leaving North Carolina a bit empy in the paint. Marcus Paige scoring 24 points wasn’t enough to help them out when there was simply no interior game.
This was the first time this season that Hood and Parker were great at the same time. North Carolina’s defense fell apart, allowing their worst efficiency number (136 points per 100 possessions) since the 2000-2001 season, and Duke shooting 43% from outside the paint compared to only 21% on such shots in the first meeting between the two teams was another example of the reversal of roles.
Duke have their defensive problems which have been an issue all year long, but for the first time against a strong team in the ACC this season, it seemed like almost every potential offensive weapon clicked at the same time. Quinn Cook had 11 points off the bench, and Rasheed Suliamon scored 10 to make it four players in double figures.
It’s hard to find someone thinking of Duke as a national championship contender outside their rabid fan base and those who always support the Blue Devils no matter what they put on the court. History tells us that outstanding freshmen usually don’t lead their team to glory when there’s not too much around them. But there is no one team that looks far better than the rest this season like Louisville and Kentucky in the last two years. Maybe Parker and Hood clicking from here on out can be enoguh to make a team that a lot criticized for being less than complete and not very smart into championship material.