The NC State Wolfpack are headed to Cameron Indoor to take on the Duke Blue Devils at 6pm EST on ESPN. NC State is coming into this game off of two wins over Syracuse and Pitt, while Duke is riding an 8-game winning streak into this game. Duke’s previous game was one of the craziest games of the season, as they erased a 23 point lead in under 8 minutes to get a win on the road vs. a ranked team. It will be very interesting to see how they respond to that game.
Wolf Pack with Tough Test
NC State is an unranked 18-7 team that has been relatively predictable all season. When I say they have predictable, I mean that they beat who they should and lose to who they should. The Wolfpack are 1-6 vs. ranked teams and 17-1 vs. everyone else, which explains why they are not currently ranked. Their lone win over a ranked team came early in the season against then #7 Auburn, while their lone loss to an unranked team was to a pretty bad Wake Forest team on the road. This game is the one clear outlier in their results this season, but I would generally ignore it. Before their last 2 wins, they faced Virginia, Virginia Tech, and North Carolina back to back to back, which is a rough task for any team in the country. They lost to Virginia by 1 point at home, which is a sentiment to how good this team can play, but then they somehow lost to Virginia Tech 47-24. That was possibly the worst ranked matchup in the history of college basketball. NC State then rebounded to score 96 points in the next game vs. UNC, but they still lost their game by 17. All of these results are very interesting because they don’t tell a specific story about this team, which is something I always like to find.
Duke is Still Good
Duke’s record, on the other hand, does tell a story. The story is that they are very, very good at basketball. After their last game, in which they completed an absurd comeback, I saw the national media talking about if Duke was overrated. WHAT?!? This comeback only made me feel more confident about this team’s future success because it showcased a few things. 1. This team cares a lot about every game and doesn’t want to give up. Most star-laden teams are packing it in in this situation, but they fought through a lot of adversity in this game. 2. They are so talented that they can become an unstoppable force if necessary. There is always some talk about LeBron James and if his team is good enough or if they can beat certain teams, but we often see him rise to whatever level he needs to down the stretch of games. This Duke team showed a dominant quality, which I love to see. They knew they could win a game in a very unlikely situation and they made it happen, regardless of the early stretch. They were going to force their way to win over a “lesser” team. 3. Maybe it was a nice wake-up call. This game showed them how much better they are than most teams if they focus and go all out from the start. I think that will definitely be talked about in the locker room before tip-off.
Zion is Amazing
The things to watch in this game are NC State vs. Zion and the NC State’s 3-pt %. NC State starts a 4-guard lineup with their biggest player listed at 6’9 and their second biggest at 6’5. I think they almost have to change this up or they will get absolutely killed by Zion Williamson and to a lesser degree Barrett and Reddish. The thing is that I don’t know if they can really do too much. I expect Zion to absolutely feast in this matchup and maybe even set season highs. NC State starts 4 guards and all four are their leading scorers. Their best player, Torin Dorn, is not a great shooter, but the other 3 all shooter 40% from the 3-pt line and I think they is the only path to keeping this game close. Duke is long and not easy to shoot over, but I think they will have to produce from beyond the arc to stay in this game.
Duke Rolls to Win
The line of -17 in favor of Duke is not the best line to attack because a lot of things go squirrelly around a 17-point line. If I was given this NC State team vs. a good ranked team on the road, I would take my 17 points and hope for the best, but the lack of size terrifies me and I think that Duke can just dominate this team inside and eventually pull away from the Wolfpack. Give me Duke -17 here.