Caulton Tudor • staff columnist
Barring missteps by Duke at Wake Forest on Tuesday and North Carolina on Wednesday against Maryland, the Blue Devils and Tar Heels yet again will determine an ACC regular-season basketball title on Saturday in Durham.
With both teams 12-2 in the league and 24-4 overall, the situation is virtually identical to a year ago in Chapel Hill.
Both were 13-2 entering the March 5, 2011 regular-season finale in Carolina’s Smith Center.
Led by Kendall Marshall (15 points, 11 assists), Harrison Barnes (18 points), John Henson (10 points, 12 rebounds) and Tyler Zeller (14 points), the Heels won 81-67 to rule regular season and claim the No. 1 seed for the league tournament.
Eight days later in Greensboro, the two met again and the outcome flipped. A 75-58 win gave Duke its third straight league tourney title.
Here are some odds and ends to keep in mind as the week plays out:
•The 7 p.m. game Saturday at Duke will be televised by cable channel ESPN only. The first meeting each season traditionally is televised nationally by ESPN but locally by the ACC regional network.
•The only time either Duke or UNC have not finished first or second in the ACC regular season race was 1995-96, when Georgia Tech went 13-3, Wake Forest 12-4, UNC 10-6 and Duke 8-8.
•It’s unusual that both Duke-UNC regular-season games follow the same theme.
In other words, don’t automatically assume that the game Saturday will be determined entirely by Duke’s 3-point shooting, which was the case when the Devils rallied for an 85-84 win at Chapel Hill on Feb. 8.
With Austin Rivers sinking six 3s and Seth Curry four, the Devils had a 42-3 scoring advantage behind the arc, erased a 10-point deficit late and won a classic on Rivers’ unforgettable 3-pointer.
In the two regular-season games last season, Nolan Smith, with 34 points, was the primary key in the first game _ a 79-73 Duke win in Durham on Feb. 9.
In the 81-67 UNC win in March, Smith had much the same showing (30 points), but the game turned on Marshall’s passing and Carolina’s rebounding.
•Mike Krzyzewski is now 37-36 in the series. Roy Williams is 8-10.
•We’re overdue for an overtime.
There’s not been one in the series since Feb. 5, 2004 (Duke 83-81, Smith Center). This is the longest non-OT series stretch since March 3, 1984 (UNC 96-83, Smith Center) until Feb. 2, 1995 (UNC 102-100, Cameron).
•For planning purposes, the regular-season No. 1 seed begins tourament play on Friday (March 9) at noon in Atlanta’s Philips Arena.
The No. 2 seed opens in 7 p.m. Friday game.
The entire ACC tourney will be an ESPN/ACC Network dual telecast operation.
The ACC pairings won’t be completely settled until late Sunday _ after the conclusion of N.C. State’s 6 p.m. game at Virginia Tech.
•John Cahill, Bryan Kersey and Tim Nestor officiated the Feb. 8 game.
•Memorable quotes from the first game this season.
Rivers: “Obviously, this is my favorite win ever.”
Williams: “We can’t start feeling sorry for ourselves … The only good you can take from it [is if you] become more determined. You ought to be ticked off. You ought to be flat-out ticked off.”
Krzyzewski: “We hung in there and we won the last round. I’m not sure we won the whole fight ... I still think they’re the best team in the league.”
Barnes: “They made the right plays, and we didn't. It's just that simple."