Why Duke & North Carolina have improved

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Roy Williams (left) and Mike Krzyzewski (right) have their teams playing well in recent weeks.

North Carolina and Duke come into Thursday's matchup as two of the hottest teams in college basketball. Since January 21 (the last 4 weeks), North Carolina and Duke are No. 1 (95.3) and No. 2 (94.8), respectively, in BPI.


Offensive rebounding

Duke Offensive Rebound Putbacks
This Season

Duke is grabbing 40.7 percent of its own misses over its last nine games, compared to an offensive rebound percentage of 29.7 in its first 17 games. The Blue Devils are averaging 15 offensive boards per game in their last nine games.

That improved offensive rebounding has led to four more points per game on offensive put-backs in the last nine games compared to the first 17.

Jabari Parker

In his last nine games, Jabari Parker is averaging 20 points and 11 rebounds per game on 47 percent shooting.

During that time, 72 percent of Parker’s field-goal attempts have come in the paint. In his first four ACC games, only 37 percent of his field-goal attempts came in the paint.

Parker's pick-and-roll defense has also improved recently. Opponents shot 74 percent against him on pick-and-roll plays in his first 16 games, but that figure has fallen to 23 percent in his last 10 games.

Deeper rotation

Lately, Andre Dawkins, Rasheed Sulaimon, Amile Jefferson and Marshall Plumlee have received more playing time.

This Season

Dawkins, Sulaimon, Jefferson and Plumlee are combining to average about 20 more minutes in the last 10 games than they did over the team's first 16 games.

During this recent stretch, the foursome is contributing nine more points, two more offensive rebounds and three more assists per game.

Sulaimon has taken on more of a ball-handler role, averaging 3.8 assists per game in his last 10 games more than doubling his average (1.5) from his first 15 games.


North Carolina has been terrific in its last seven games, averaging nearly 16 more points per game than in its first five conference games. The Tar Heels are shooting 35 percent from beyond the arc in their last seven games compared to 23 percent in their previous five games.

Much of the improvement has to do with the play of James Michael McAdoo and Marcus Paige.

James Michael McAdoo & Marcus Paige

James Michael McAdoo is averaging 16 points and eight rebounds per game in his last seven games and has been especially efficient on post-up plays, shooting 50 percent in his last seven games, up from 39 percent the rest of the season.

Marcus Paige, meanwhile, has been a more efficient half-court scorer in recent games and can thank his improved accuracy on jump shots -- making 48 percent of his shots over the last seven games.

His effective field-goal percentage on jump shots in those games is 67 percent, compared to 50 percent earlier in the season.

Paige has also been a more efficient distributor, averaging about two more assists per game with a 2.7 assist-to-turnover ratio over his last five games.