Three conclusions to be drawn from Wednesday’s first Duke vs. Carolina game of the season, a frantic 79-73 Blue Devil win.
1. Barring abrupt directional changes, the Tar Heels will be favored in the March 5 return game in Chapel Hill. The Devils were favored by 10 points in Cameron. The Heels will likely be picked by 4-8 in the Smith Center.
This is one season when the ACC obviously needs that bonus Duke-Carolina game in March. Based on the uninspiring play of the other 10 league teams, the tournament could be a long Greensboro yawn unless there’s a third meeting of the rivals.
2. Duke’s Seth Curry has a chance to track along the same career path as senior teammate Nolan Smith.
Smith may be the best college player in the nation now. But as a leaner, less confident sophomore, he averaged a modest 8.4 points and shot 42 percent while starting 21 of the team’s 34 games.
After the 22-point explosion against UNC, Curry, a third-year sophomore, is averaging 8.8 points, shooting almost 42 percent and has started six times.
Apart from similar shooting styles on the perimeter, both have near unlimited intensity. Plus, Curry will get more effective at creating offense off the dribble.
3. No one is benefiting more from Kendall Marshall’s floor direction for UNC than junior center Tyler Zeller.
In the past four games, Zeller has averaged 18 points and converted 27 of 37 field-goal attempts.
At this rate, the 7-foot junior will be a first-team all-ACC pick, probably at the expense of Boston College hopeful Reggie Jackson, who has cooled some of late.