As Duke prepares to visit North Carolina on Wednesday, the Blue Devils' players obviously are aware of the Tar Heels' struggles.
Duke (19-4, 7-2 ACC) moved up to No. 8 in The Associated Press' rankings on Monday, and North Carolina is 13-10 overall, 2-6 in the ACC.
"My reaction is, 'What's going on?' " said Duke junior guard Nolan Smith. "Because when I look at them, I know some of their players. I know they are a very talented team. They have guys that are probably going to be lottery picks. It's very surprising to me. But they're a very talented team."
The Blue Devils don't sound like they're taking North Carolina lightly despite its struggles. Forward Kyle Singler said youth might have contributed to the Tar Heels' losing record in the ACC.
"They're just young," Singler said. "Obviously that's what people talk about, that they're young. And they are. They have a lot of talent. You just really can't look at them losing games because they can beat anyone. They've definitely won some good games. So you can't necessarily say they're struggling."
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski also said the Tar Heels are talented, and he expects their best shot Wednesday.
"They're very talented and deep," he said. "They can keep coming at you. (Ed) Davis is one of the most talented players in the country. And (Deon) Thompson is just a seasoned veteran, and so is (Marcus) Ginyard. And (William) Graves is old. So they have a really good blend of veterans and a lot of talented young players. I just think they're a very talented basketball team, and obviously they represent a program that is proud and they have one of the best coaches of all time."
If the Tar Heels were looking for bulletin board material, they didn't get it from Duke's media session Monday. Then again, it doesn't take harsh words to inspire passion in this rivalry.