Can you have a basketball game with two favorites?
No. 1 Duke heads down Tabaco Road to take on No. 21 NC State at noon on Saturday. This is one of the biggest games in the ACC this season, and the first of two matchups takes place in Raleigh.
The Blue Devils are the No. 1 team in the country and an undefeated force, raining their usual brand of entitled, upper-class terror on the rest of the college basketball landscape. They have been installed as significant favorites in this game and will carry their heavy expectations down state for this meeting.
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But NC State actually entered the season as the favorite to win the ACC Championship. The preseason media poll had the Wolfpack as a slender favorite as the best team in the league – and now they will get a chance to prove it.
Here is a breakdown ofSaturday’s top matchup:
Duke at NC State Wolfpack Betting Story Lines
NC State has been the red-jerseyed stepchild of Carolina basketball for a long time now. Even Wake Forest has had more relevance in the ACC over the past decade. But Saturday’s tilt, hosting the No. 1 team in the league and in the nation, is a mammoth opportunity for the Wolfpack to really put themselves back on the map.
This will be the second Top 5 opponent that NC State has taken on this year. They lost on the road against No. 2 Michigan back on Nov. 27. But they have won nine straight since that defeat, and they have been dominating at home while winning their nine games there by an average of 17.4 points per game.
The Wolfpack rely on one of the most diverse and multifaceted offenses in the country. They have six players averaging double-figures in scoring, led by athletic forward C.J. Leslie. The triggerman for this attack is point guard Lorenzo Brown and veterans Richard Howell in the post and Scott Wood as the shooter round out the foundation. But the key for NC State may be the play of freshmen Rodney Purvis and T.J. Warren.
The Blue Devils are the team that everyone knows and everyone loves to hate. But they are the clear No. 1 team in the country, and they have simply been laying waste to everyone with the misfortune of crossing their path.
Duke has already floored Kentucky, Minnesota, Louisville, Ohio State and Syracuse-slaying Temple. Kentucky, Louisville and Ohio State were all in the Top 10 when the Blue Devils took them down, and Minnesota is presently No. 8. No team in the nation has a resume even close to that.
Stud power forward Mason Plumlee leads the way with 17.7 points and 11.4 rebounds per game. Senior guard Seth Curry isn’t far behind at 16.0 points per outing.
However, Duke was dealt some bad news this week. Swing forward Ryan Kelly suffered a foot injury in Duke’s blowout win over Clemson on Tuesday night. There is no timetable for his return, but my sources suggest he will miss 4-6 weeks. Kelly was the team’s No. 3 scorer, No. 2 rebounder and was a matchup nightmare for opponents.
NC State is the No. 1 shooting team in the country at 53.0 percent. They are No. 8 in scoring at 81.3 points per game and No. 16 in three-point shooting. Duke isn’t far behind. They are No. 24 in the nation in shooting (48.1 percent), No. 4 in three-point shooting (42.7 percent) and No. 18 in scoring at 79.3 points per game.
Duke at NC State Betting Odds and Key Trends
The spread on this game opened at Duke -5.5, but it was immediately dropped to -4.5. No total was available at time of publication, but I can project that the line will be around 147.5.
Duke has been amazing away from Cameron Indoor, going 9-1 ATS in their last 10 road games. The Blue Devils are 7-0 ATS on the road against a team that has won more than 60 percent of its home games and 8-1 ATS in their last nine against a team with a winning home record. Duke is just 1-6 ATS in its last seven conference games.
NC State has gone 6-1-1 ATS in their last eight ACC games. They are also a stellar 15-6-1 ATS in their last 22 games overall and 14-5 ATS following a win. The Wolfpack has gone 12-5-1 ATS in their last 18 games against a team with a winning record.
Duke at NC State Picks and Betting Predictions
It is nearly impossible to bet against the Blue Devils. However, this is a massive statement game for NC State. Even at 100 percent I think that the Wolfpack would be able to knock off Duke. NC State is extremely talented, they execute well, and they are very motivated to prove their stature in the ACC. And without Kelly, Duke is definitely vulnerable. The Blue Devils lost two of their last three games to close last season after Kelly injured his foot, including that humiliating first-round loss to Lehigh in the NCAA Tournament. I think that NC State smells blood – and I think they find a way to get this winner. Take the points.
Read more articles by Robert Ferringo