NCAA Basketball: Duke at Pittsburgh
Jan 19, 2021; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Duke Blue Devils Duke Blue Devils center Mark Williams (15) warms up before playing the Pittsburgh Panthers at the Petersen Events Center. | Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Williams has the potential to frustrate UNC inside

The Duke-UNC game is always a big deal and that’s true this year even though, for the first time since 1960, neither team is ranked.

For a bit of perspective, Dwight Eisenwhower was still president, Vic Bubas was in his first year at Duke, Dean Smith was an unknown assistant at UNC, segregation was still in force across the South and the Beatles were in Hamburg although Ringo was still in Liverpool. The top of the charts?

Teen Angel.

It’s been awhile.

Nonetheless, it’s Duke vs. UNC so we expect at least one side will be fired up and that usually fires the other up to meet it.

We wanted to look at one particular aspect of this game now that’s particularly interesting (we’ll be looking more before game time) and that’s post play.

UNC has a three-headed monster in Garrison Brooks, Armando Bacot and Day’Ron Sharpe. Any of them are capable of a 20-10 night at any time which makes it a tough matchup. Earlier in the season, we would have conceded that to them but not so much now.

Why?

The emergence of Mark Williams.

Williams is not as powerful as UNC’s guys are (yet), but he’s 7-0 and a long 7-0 at that. He’s shown that he can block shots and he’s also learning how to deal with the more physical nature of college basketball.

He may not be able to handle UNC’s game – certainly not by himself – but he can challenge and limit it.

Patrick Tapé suffered a back injury earlier and we’re not sure how much it’s set him back but he hasn’t played much. In this game however, we might see the two of them rotate and possibly play together depending on the situation.

Basically in this game, Williams gives Duke more options and also takes pressure off of Matthew Hurt and Jalen Johnson. Both have gotten better about fouling but if they have to guard much bigger guys it could be an issue.

Of course another way to deal with big guys is simply to deny them the ball. If your defense is suffocating, the big guys have to make their own lunch.

Which we’ll talk about next time.

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