Like we said in Smack this morning, the records don’t matter when Duke and North Carolina get together. College basketball’s most storied rivalry tips off one more time tonight (ESPN, 9 p.m. EST), and while almost every expert would favor the ACC-leading Blue Devils over the struggling Tar Heels, we wanted to get predictions from some of the players who will become part of the UNC/Duke tradition over the next few years.
We caught up with a few of Duke and Carolina’s signed recruits, plus one high-profile undecided recruiting target — essentially a Who’s Who of the top high school ballplayers in the country — to get their take on who will win tonight’s big game:
HARRISON BARNES, Ames (Iowa) 2010, SG/SF, signed with North Carolina: “It will be a great game and both teams will play extremely hard. It should be fun to watch and I’m happy to be going back to North Carolina.”
REGGIE BULLOCK, Kinston (N.C.) 2010, SG, signed with North Carolina: “I think that if we keep the turnovers under 10 for the game and keep the defensive pressure up and push the ball in transition and be smart and score we will win. I’ll say 81-70 Carolina.”
KENDALL MARSHALL, Bishop O’Connell (Va.) 2010, PG, signed with North Carolina: “I’m gonna say Carolina 63, Duke 58. I think we’ll win because it’s Rivalry Week and anything is possible! We aren’t having the best year, but when you get two teams together like Duke and Carolina, everybody raises their level of play.”
KYRIE IRVING, St. Patrick (N.J.) 2010, PG, signed with Duke: “It’s Duke of course! They’re gonna win because they’re more experienced in games like this and they bring it! I can’t give you a score, but it’s Duke.”
AUSTIN RIVERS, Winter Park (Fla.) 2011, PG/SG, being recruited by Duke: “Duke! Just because they’re my team and they play harder! They just want it every game and they have better guards. I say it will be 76-65, Duke.”
JOSHUA HAIRSTON, Montrose Christian (Md.) 2010, PF, signed with Duke: “I say Duke by 15 or more. I think it will be a good, hard and clean game, but Duke’s experience is just gonna be too much for them. Not sure about the score.”