Anticipation for the NCAA Tournament is growing rapidly, but before college basketball fans can fully shift their attention to the Big Dance, the regular season must produce one final piece of drama.
North Carolina heads to Duke on Saturday night for a rematch of what many consider the sport's greatest rivalry. It's Rivals.com's Game of the Week, and tipoff is set for 9 p.m. (EST).
The No. 15 Tar Heels (20-6, 11-4 ACC) are riding a six-game winning streak and look like the ACC's hottest team. The No. 2 Blue Devils (27-2, 14-1) had won 10 in a row until being upset by Florida State 79-74 on Wednesday night.
The Blue Devils held on for an 87-83 road win over the Tar Heels in the first meeting Feb. 7.
We have an in-depth breakdown of the rematch, complete with a look at who has the edge at each position.
PPG: 18.8 RPG: 10.3 BPG: 3.7
This preseason All-American has lived up to the hype. A force on both ends of the floor, the senior is known as the "The Landlord" because of his presence in the paint on defense. A tremendous shot blocker, he also does a great job avoiding foul trouble. He has posted four consecutive double-doubles. In a game of this magnitude, expect a fifth.
PPG: 18.7 RPG: 7.5 FT: 74%
A lock for National Freshman of the Year, this 6-9, 235-pound forward is averaging more points than everyone in the ACC except Redick and Williams. Hansbrough grabbed nine rebounds in the first meeting, but was an uncharacteristic 4-of-11 from the field. He must finish better near the basket and prevent Williams from taking too many high-percentage shots.
PPG: 8.2 RPG: 4.8 FG: 62%
Considered a future NBA lottery pick, this talented freshman is playing a limited role. The 6-10, 230-pounder focuses on setting picks for J.J. Redick and crashing the boards. He usually only takes shots when wide open, but exploded for a season-high 17 points in just 21 minutes in the first meeting with UNC. If the Tar Heels continue to double-team Williams, he could post big numbers again.
PPG: 12.9 RPG: 6.6 APG: 3.5
Meet one of the ACC's most versatile players. There isn't much this 6-6, 230-pound senior from Durham can't do on the court. He is averaging 21 points in his last three games. A solid rebounder and 3-point threat, his athleticism also allows him to guard a handful of positions. He will take turns shadowing Redick and will also be asked to help keep Williams off the boards.
PPG: 28.1 3pt: 43% FG: 49%
The ACC's all-time leading scorer heads into the game on a rare cold streak. He has made only 18 of his last 59 attempts (31%) from the field, but don't expect the Heels to show him any less respect. He scored 35 points in the first meeting. Terry and Noel must not fall for his shot fakes. They also need to limit his trips to the free-throw line.
PPG: 14.4 RPG: 5.9 FG: 49%
A little-used reserve on the national championship team last season, this junior has developed into a consistent scoring weapon. He uses a reliable mid-range jumper to do most of his damage. At 6-8, 228-pounds, he won't need much space to shoot over Redick. The Blue Devils will use physical play to keep him outside the arc and entice him to put the ball on the floor.
PPG: 8.2 SPG: 1.8 FT: 68%
One of the top perimeter defenders in the ACC, this 6-2, 185-pound senior is capable of shutting down talented guards. Despite his defensive prowess, don't expect him to play anywhere near the 37 minutes he did in the first meeting - he hasn't played more than 20 minutes in his last three games. Dockery has scored just five points and has one steal over that stretch.
PPG: 7.2 3pt: 44% A/T: 2.6-1
The Tar Heels are 10-2 since Roy Williams moved this James Madison transfer into the starting lineup in late January. A 3-point specalist with good range, he is also a solid ballhandler that rarely makes mistakes. Look for him stay on the court with Dockery. He'll likely go to the bench when Nelson, who is much stronger and more athletic, checks into the game.
PPG: 6.3 APG: 5.2 A/T: 1.6-1
A classic pass-first point guard, this freshman usually only takes open looks. His main job is to get the Duke offense - which rarely runs set plays - into gear and get the ball into the hands of Redick and Williams. His ability to handle halfcourt traps and other defensive wrinkles will be pivotal.
PPG: 6.5 APG: 4.6 3pt: 30%
More of a shooting guard, this savvy freshman was asked to play out of position and has done a solid job. His development into a reliable point guard is one of the main reasons Hansbrough is putting up such good numbers. Frasor is a dangerous shooter with deep range, but his most important role will be keeping Paulus out of the lane and providing on-the-ball pressure.
North Carolina Bench
The Blue Devils' main weakness is lack of depth, but coach Mike Krzyzewski does have a pair of reserves who consistently contribute. Small forward DeMarcus Nelson (7.2 ppg) has developed into one of the ACC's top sixth men and earned a start against FSU. Three-point specialist Lee Melchionni (pictured) can provide an offensive spark.
UNC has an edge when it comes to backcourt depth. Freshmen guards Danny Green (7.7 ppg) and Marcus Ginyard (pictured) both play heavy minutes. Green is a much better shooter and a little more dangerous. Sophomore Quentin Thomas spells Frasor. Senior center Byron Sanders plays in spurts when Hansbrough needs a rest.
North Carolina's intangibles
Expect the Blue Devils to be motivated, and expect the greatest fans in college basketball to be louder than ever. It will be the last game for four seniors in Cameron, including Redick and Williams - who will eventually have their jerseys retired. Paulus, McRoberts and Nelson are going to want to send their mentors out with a win they will never forget.
Nearly half of UNC's rotation has never played in Cameron, where the Heels haven't won since 2001. Even battle-tested veterans have been rattled by the racous atmosphere. Williams has his young team peaking at the right time and looking like a team that will do some damage in the NCAA Tournament.