March Madness 2022: Inside Duke-North Carolina games

The Post’s Zach Braziller breaks down Saturday night’s national semifinal between No. 2 Duke and No. 8 North Carolina at Caesars Superdome:

Leader

White Plains native RJ Davis has upped his game this month, scoring at a high level when the opportunity presented itself, while understanding that the most important part of his job is creating for his teammates. His 2.2-1 assist-to-spin ratio in this North Carolina race cannot be overstated in its importance. Duke’s Jeremy Roach has had some big hits in recent wins, especially in Sweet 16’s win over Texas Tech, but his nine turnovers over the past two games are cause for concern.

Edge: North Carolina

Keep

Both players can get hot and run on their own. Both players can also pull their respective teams out of a match. North Carolina’s Caleb Love and Duke’s AJ Griffin are hugely talented with NBA futures, but they’re also incredibly inconsistent, as streaky as they are dynamic. Love is the most complete player at this point with an extra year of college experience while Griffin is the strongest shooter.

Edge: North Carolina

Keep

Wendell Moore Jr. is an outlier on Duke, a junior who waited his turn and methodically improved each season. He could be the Quinn Cook of this team: a veteran leader guiding his young team to a national championship. His counterpart, senior Leaky Black, won’t hurt Duke on the offensive end, but the defensive versatility of the North Carolina wing will be key to a Tar Heels victory.

Edge: duke

Wendell Wendell Moore Jr.
Wendell Moore Jr.
USA TODAY Sports

Cheeky

The emergence of Brady Manek spearheaded North Carolina’s two-month tear of 16 wins in 19 games, transfer from Oklahoma to average 17.3 points and 6.3 rebounds in this hot sequence. He’s shooting an absurd 61.3 percent from 3-point range in the dance, which makes the Tar Heels incredibly difficult to defend against. He will, however, face an equally comfortable player on the perimeter, Paolo Banchero, the top three predicted by Duke in the 2022 NBA draft. his athleticism will give adjustments to Manek.

Edge: duke

Cheeky

It’s the most fascinating head-to-head of the weekend. It is power against power. North Carolina’s Armando Bacot versus Duke’s Mark Williams, two dominant post players critical to the success of their respective teams. Williams, the top NBA prospect of the two, has been an absolute monster lately, averaging 14.5 points, 8.7 rebounds and 4.0 blocks in the tournament. Bacot is coming off a masterpiece of 20 points and 22 rebounds and had 10 double-doubles in his last 11 games. Don’t take your eyes off these two.

Edge: Same

Bench

Between the two rivals, there’s a potential difference maker who doesn’t start: Duke freshman guard Trevor Keels. Former Marquette center Theo John offers significant tenacity and confidence if Williams lands in trouble. In North Carolina’s last two wins, their bench has scored a grand total of four points.

Edge: duke

Coach

Hubert Davis, Mike Krzyzewski
Hubert Davis, Mike Krzyzewski
Getty (2)

This is Mike Krzyzewski’s 13th Final Four. This is his sixth national championship. He has won 101 NCAA Tournament games and 1,202 total games in 47 seasons. If experience matters, and it certainly must be somewhat significant at this point in the year, it’s a no contest, even though Hubert Davis shone in his first year as head coach, bringing North Carolina to the Final Four after a poor first half of the season.

Edge: duke

Prediction

All the pressure is on Duke. He is expected to win. North Carolina wasn’t even supposed to be here and can play free. But the young Blue Devils showed they could handle the aforementioned pressure, digging deep to get past Michigan State and Texas Tech earlier in the tournament. For 35 minutes, it’s anyone’s game, with the showdown more than living up to the hype. But buying time, Banchero reminds everyone why he is such a vaunted prospect, sending Coach K to the final night of the season in his final year on the sidelines.

Duke 85, North Carolina 77

amoloans