No. 1 Duke and No. 8 North Carolina renew rivalry this week

North Carolina head coach Roy Williams set his sights on landing Zion Williamson out of high school, only to see him end up down the road at the Tar Heels’ biggest rival.

Williams and the rest of the eight-ranked Tar Heels will get an up-close look at top-ranked Duke’s rim-wrecking freshman Wednesday in what’s sure to be a foundation-shaking atmosphere at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

This rivalry is already one of the best in sports, and having both teams ranked in the top 10 plus Williamson’s presence make it must-watch TV.

“Zion’s a different bird, there’s no question about that,” Williams said Monday. “We tried to recruit him very hard. He’s got a combination of skill set that I’ve never seen before and there is a lot of attention, but he deserves it. He’s backed it up.”

Williamson arrived at Duke with plenty of hype, a 6-foot-8, 285-pound force who created a massive following with his head-above-the-rim dunks.

He has exceeded even those lofty expectations by doing the same things he did to high schoolers against college players. Williamson is right behind fellow freshman R.J. Barrett with 22.4 points per game, grabs 9.2 rebounds and often has more highlights in one game than most players have all season.

He also has helped lead the Blue Devils (23-2, 13-1 ACC) to No. 1 in the AP Top 25 for the third time this season.

Since losing to Syracuse on Jan. 14, Duke has reeled off nine straight wins, including a 23-point comeback victory over No. 18 Louisville. The Blue Devils moved up a spot to No. 1 this week after Tennessee lost to No. 4 Kentucky.

The Tar Heels (20-5, 10-2) had a seven-game winning streak ended by No. 3 Virginia on Feb. 11, but bounced back with a rout over Wake Forest.

“It’s hard to kind of miss the hype they get, just because it’s all over the place, but we try not to pay attention to it,” North Carolina senior guard Cameron Johnson said. “We go about our own business and we’re really confident in the group that we have. But it’ll definitely be a big opportunity for us.”

John Marshall is an Associated Press writer.

This post was originally posted at https://www.sfgate.com/sports/article/No-1-Duke-and-No-8-North-Carolina-renew-rivalry-13628963.php.

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