Barnes creates tall challenge for Duke

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- Ninth-ranked Duke has tried multiple starting lineups this season.

None of them, on paper, at least, look as if they match up particularly well with No. 5 North Carolina -- particularly at one position.

“Offensively, I like the odds of someone 6-4 going against me,’’ 6-foot-8 UNC small forward Harrison Barnes said Tuesday.

He was referring to Austin Rivers and Andre Dawkins, two of the Duke guards that could end up defending the taller Barnes when the teams meet at the Smith Center on Wednesday night. Unlike last season, when Duke's 6-foot-8 Kyle Singler could chase and challenge Barnes all over the court, Duke doesn’t have as many options.

Not when UNC starts a lineup that measures in at 6-4, 6-7, 6-8, 6-11 and 7-0.

Not when the Blue Devils aren’t as flexible, lineup wise, as in seasons past, no matter who they start.

"That’s been a problem for us all year; we have a small perimeter," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said Monday. "We don’t have the versatility. We either have big guys or perimeter guys. Kyle [Singler], Lance [Thomas], [Loul] Deng, they were able to play 3, 4, 5, 2. It gave us a lot of versatility defensively. So much of what we do is based on matchups that, defensively, those guys were great to have.

“Barnes for them, with [Tyler] Zeller and [John] Henson, they are the best front line in college basketball. They are all big and all talented. That’s just something they have over everybody, I think, anybody in the country."

UNC coach Roy Williams, though, downplayed the notion that any individual matchup would decide the game -- pointing out that Duke’s big guys are wider than UNC’s, and that the Blue Devils’ smaller guys could be a problem for the Tar Heels, too.

“If you’re smaller than the guy, you want to make the quickness a more important factor, so you do more things out on the floor,’’ he said. “If you’re bigger, you want to make your size more of a factor, so you try to play closer to the basket. Those guys, they can play.”

Indeed, Barnes said that defensively, it could be tough keeping up with a smaller foe, especially considering his left ankle, which he sprained last Tuesday, is not yet 100 percent.

Rivers, who figures he’ll be matched up on Barnes quite a bit, is counting on it.

“He might not be fun to match up with, but it’s not fun to match up with me, either,’’ the freshman said. “He’s going to have to guard me, too.”

Follow Robbi Pickeral on Twitter at @bylinerp.