Duke forward Paolo Banchero (5) celebrates with forward AJ Griffin (21) after scoring against Syracuse during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Syracuse, N.Y., Saturday, Feb. 26, 2022. (AP Photo/Adrian Kraus)

Duke, North Carolina Meet for Fantasy Final Four

Duke. North Carolina. It’s always a big, blue-blooded, rival matchup.

Some may wonder if the two squads have ever met in the NCAA Final Four. They haven’t– indeed, the two teams with 11 championships among them have never met in the NCAA Tournament.

Now, a spot in the championship game is on the line. No. 8 seed North Carolina will be the underdog versus the No. 2 seed Duke (32-6) team stocked with NBA draft picks like Paulo Banchero, Mark Williams and A.J. Griffin.

An upset on Saturday would spell the end of Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski’s coaching history as he will retire. Coach K won all five Duke titles, including most recently in 2015. Winning a final title would be a fairytale ending.

https://twitter.com/BleacherReport/status/1507916686564884480?s=20&t=pEPSTxPSKM70vJLuMx5wNw

Coach K has led Duke since 1980. Meanwhile, UNC head coach Hubert Davis is in his first year as head honcho. The former Roy Williams assistant spent much of the season on the tournament bubble. Back on Feb. 5, the Tar Heels lost 87-67. But the win to spoil Coach K’s final home game cemented his team’s spot in the tournament.

Strong performances from Armando Bacot and Jacob Love were the key differences between the Feb. 5 87-67 loss and March 5 win.

Hubert, the first African American to lead the UNC men’s basketball program, made rounds on Twitter for the care he expressed for his players after the Elite Eight victory over St. Peters.

He now goes for the first Tar Heel title since 2017.

Fanfare

It will be interesting to see the ratings for this historic game. Around the country, fans, celebrities and politicians alike are expressing excitement for the big game.

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper made a proclamation declaring his state as the center of the college basketball universe.

Moreover, country star Eric Church canceled his sold-out San Antonio concert to attend the game with his family.

ALSO: ESPN broadcaster Dick Vitale shares his memories from his 35 years of calling UNC-Duke games

Below are some players to watch for, along with tournament results so far for each team:

Duke

Paolo Banchero, 6-foot-10 Forward

  • The top scorer for the Blue Devils, Banchero has averaged 18.5 points a game during the NCAA Tournament
  • ACC Rookie of Year
  • ESPN projects Banchero as the No. 3 pick in the NBA Draft

Mark Williams, 7-foot Center

  • ACC Defensive Player of Year; he’s had 16 blocks in four tournament games so far
  • Williams has averaged 14.5 points a game with an efficient 80.6 field goal percentage during March Madness
  • No. 21 pick in the NBA Draft, according to ESPN

A.J. Griffin, 6-foot-6 Forward

How They Got Here:

d. No. 15 seed CSU Fullerton 78-61

d. No. 7 seed Michigan State 85-76

d. No. 3 seed Texas Tech 78-73

d. No. 4 seed Arkansas 78-69

North Carolina

Armando Bacot, 6-foot-10 Forward

  • Exploded for 20 points and 22 rebounds last game against St. Peters
  • Still, high scores are not stranger to Bacot; he’s posted double digits in every game since Feb. 17
  • 23 points against Duke last time they played- however, Bocat scored 12 points during the Feb. 5 loss

Caleb Love, 6-foot-4 Guard

  • Posted30 points versus UCLA in Sweet 16
  • Averages 37.1 3-point percentage
  • Scored 22 points in the victory over Duke, but only 8 in the loss

How They Got Here:

d. No. 9 seed Marquette 95-63

d. No. 1 seed Baylor 93-86 (OT)

d. No. 4 seed UCLA 73-66

d. No. 15 seed St. Peters 69-49

How to Watch

When: Tipoff is set for Saturday at 8:49 p.m. following the conclusion of two-seeded Villanova versus one-seeded Kansas.

Channel/Website: The game will air live on TBS and stream through NCAA.com.

ESPN’s Basketball Power Index gives the Blue Devils a 68.5% chance of winning on Saturday.

About Julianna Reichenbach

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