Here’s a position by position breakdown of the Duke and North Carolina key players. The two teams meet this Saturday in Cameron Indoor Stadium at 7 p.m.
Tyler Zeller vs. Mason/Miles Plumlee
Tyler Zeller: 16.2 ppg, 9.3 reb, 1.5 blk
While most Blue Devil fans likely remember Zeller’s ignominious finish to the first Duke-North Carolina game—in which the big man missed two free throws, accidentally tipped in a Duke miss and allowed Austin Rivers to shoot over him for the game winning 3-pointer—that shouldn’t overshadow what has otherwise been an excellent senior season. Zeller will likely be named the ACC player of the year, as he’s reached double digit scoring in 15 of his last 16 games, currently placing him fifth in the ACC in scoring. He’s gotten even stronger as the season has progressed, putting up 20 points against Virginia last Saturday and 30 against Maryland Wednesday. Don’t discount his defense either—against Virginia he held star Mike Scott, who came into the game ranked second in the ACC in scoring, to a mere six points.
He’s also been a force on the boards with 10 double-doubles this season, as he ranks third in the ACC in rebounds per game. His work on the glass has helped the Tar Heels to the largest rebounding margin in the country, and will certainly make life difficult for the Plumlee brothers. Lest you forget, going into the final two minutes of last month’s game, Zeller had dominated down low, finishing with 23 points and 11 boards. There appears to be little in the way of him doing it again Saturday.
Mason Plumlee: 10.8 ppg, 9.4 reb, 1.5 blk
Miles Plumlee: 6.5 ppg, 7.0 reb, .9 blk
Miles Plumlee has started the past two games in Mason’s place, and probably will again Saturday on Senior Night, but you can guarantee Mason will see plenty of minutes as head coach Mike Krzyzewski tries to slow down the North Carolina frontcourt. After struggling for the beginning of the season, Miles has become a completely different player following the game in Chapel Hill. In the six games since, Miles has averaged 12 rebounds a game, giving the Blue Devils the reliable force on the glass they lacked last time against the Tar Heels.
Unfortunately his resurgence appears to have come at his brother’s expense. Mason, who ranks second in the ACC in rebounds with 9.4, has struggled heavily in the past few games. He’s averaged only five points and six rebounds in his past four contests, including his measly one point against Florida State in which the junior was plagued with foul trouble the entire night. Krzyzewski has since responded by giving Mason’s starting spot up to his brother, and Mason has shown signs of recovery. Against Wake Forest he scored 12 points, including going 8-9 from the charity stripe. Expect Krzyzewski to cycle through both Plumlees early and often to try and wear down Zeller, as this game will likely be determined by the bigs.
Edge: Tar Heels