No. 4 Duke’s first meeting with No. 3 North Carolina was headlined by the knee injury suffered by Zion Williamson just 33 seconds into the game, and with the star freshman out of the game the Blue Devils were unable to control the Tar Heels in the paint.
Williamson hasn’t played since, and on Friday Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski said that the star freshman is considered to be doubtful for the rematch with the Tar Heels. A final decision on Williamson’s status for the game will be made after Duke’s pregame shoot-around Saturday morning.
Duke has won three of the four games it has played since the first meeting with North Carolina, an 88-72 Tar Heel victory in which Roy Williams’ team scored 62 points in the paint. That area will have a significant impact on Saturday’s rematch, whether Williamson plays or not. While freshmen RJ Barrett, Cam Reddish and Tre Jones remain the headliners for the Blue Devils, how well Marques Bolden and Javin DeLaurier play against the likes of Luke Maye and Garrison Brooks is worth watching Saturday night as well.
Bolden, who accounted for just two rebounds and two blocked shots in the loss to North Carolina, has scored in double figures in two of Duke’s last four games. That includes a 15-point, 10-rebound, two-steal effort in Duke’s March 2 win over Miami. Also Jack White, who went through a brutal cold spell in which he missed 29 straight three-point attempts, has shot a combined 5-for-8 from distance in Duke’s last two games.
ACC tournament seeding will also be on the line Saturday, as Duke can be either the one (with a win and a Virginia loss to Louisville), two or three-seed in Charlotte. If Williamson can return Saturday, that would give Duke a boost. But after Tuesday’s win over Wake Forest, there was more optimism regarding the freshman’s availability for the ACC tournament than for the matchup with North Carolina.
“I don’t think he’ll be ready for Saturday. I have to be careful not to push this,” Krzyzewski said.
“I want to give him a chance to get in game shape. I would be surprised if he wasn’t ready by the ACC Tournament. Hopefully we’ll play some games there, not just one, and get ready for the NCAA Tournament.”