If it wasn't clear before, it is now. Run with North Carolina at your own risk. Just ask Duke.
We'd already seen the Heels' awesome offense at work in wins against Michigan State and Notre Dame earlier this season. A week ago, they dropped 108 on Maryland. And even when UNC loses, it still racks up the points.
Consider UNC's performance:
On 81 possessions, the Heels averaged 1.236 points per possession against the best defense it's faced this year. That's higher than their season average of 1.219.
The Devils hadn't given up more than 81 points all season. The Heels blew by that with more than six minutes remaining.
Carolina's FG% was 59.7. Duke usually holds opponents to 44.1.
UNC did most of its damage during the second half, when it outscored Duke 57-35. This was after the Devils put on a shot of their own, ripping off 52 first-half points. At one point, they hit 13-of-18 shots. But early in the second half, the Heels started running – scoring in 10- and 12-point bunches over 3 minute spans – and Duke couldn't keep up.
"In the second half, we kind of had the mindset that we were going to outscore them," Duke's Kyle Singler said afterward. "But you're not going to outscore Carolina."
Again, this wasn't College of Charleston or UNC Asheville. This was Duke, playing at home, and playing well. It was an effective reminder that no, the Heels don't have Marcus Ginyard, but they're still as good as anyone. (Note to self: Remember this when filling out bracket.)
And that's because of Ty Lawson.
The Heels' junior
blur point guard ran by the Devils for 21 of his game-high 25 points in the second half. Fourteen of those points were lay-ups that came from beating guys off the dribble or in transition. It didn't matter if it was Nolan Smith, Greg Paulus or a wall of Devil defenders, Lawson (1.66 PPWS) spread the floor with his speed and finished when it mattered.
For Carolina to reach Detroit, it'll need more of that from Lawson, much like Derrick Rose did for Memphis last season. Few things disrupt a defense like a quick point guard who can beat defenders off the dribble. Lawson opens up scoring chances for Wayne Ellington and allows Tyler Hansbrough and Deon Thompson to hang around the basket for quick buckets.
This doesn't mean UNC is going to reclaim the "unbeatable" tag. Plenty of ACC traps remain, starting with Sunday's road game at Miami, and a regular-season finale against Duke, which remains a Final Four worthy team, despite this mini-skid.
But as long as long as the Heels keep up their go-go attitude, they're going to be tough to slow down, let alone stop.