Breaking down Duke v. North Carolina State

Breaking down the Blue Devils and Wolfpack who will tip off in the ACC semifinal round on Saturday afternoon in Greensboro, NC.

Duke vs. NC State
Mar. 15 at 3 pm
Greensboro Coliseum


NC State
Overall Record 25-7 (.781) 19-12 (.613)
Location Record 4-2 (.667) on neutral 2-0 (1.000) on neutral
Scoring/G: PF&PA(Rank) 79.2 (21) 66.9 (92) 71.2 (181) 69.9 (160)
Rebound Margin/G: RM(Rank) 2.1 (128) -0.6 (215)
7.1 (68) 4.8 (301)
Assists/G: A(Rank)
14.7 (46) 12.8 (156)
Field-Goal Percentage: FG%(Rank) 46.3 (65) 45.8 (97)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 3FG%(Rank) 39.0 (20) 30.3 (289)
Field-Goal Percentage Against: FG%(Rank) 45.2 (247) 42.2 (112)
Ranking: Coaches' Poll #6 #NR
AP Poll
#7 #NR


8 (85.7) 66 (70.0)
Point Guard

PG: Quinn Cook (6-2, 180, Jr.) vs. Anthony Barber (6-2, 170, Jr.)

Oddly enough, neither of these two players are likely to start on Saturday, but each will come off the bench and provide sparks in place of starters Tyler Thornton and Tyler Lewis. Both Duke and State are comfortable splitting the minutes at point guard between two players, and all four have their strengths and weaknesses. For State, Lewis lacks the athleticism to guard high major opponents, but he's a savvy court manager who understands the game and maximizes the gifts he does have….which sounds a lot like Tyler Thornton, the senior guard from Duke who has a knack for making plays in crunch time (as he did against Clemson). Off the bench, Barber is one of the fastest players with the ball in the ACC, but he often finds himself out of control or making some questionable decisions with the ball, he's not an overly dangerous scoring threat from anywhere unless he's driving tot he goal. His somewhat carefree attitude with the ball in his hands will remind fans of Duke's Cook, who has continually struggled over the last month, but has shown flashes of reigning the form that made him Duke's starter for most of the season. Cook is a terrific passer in transition, and is capable of exploding for 18-20 points on any given night. Of late he's also been capable of going into a shell and barely scratching the scoresheet. In the first game Thornton and Cook combined for 16 points and six assists against just two turnovers compared to Lewis and Barber's 13 points, three assists, and six turnovers.

Shooting Guard

SG: Rasheed Sulaimon (6-4, 190, So.) vs. Ralston Turner (6-5, 205, Jr.)

Turner was brilliant against Miami, and solid against Syracuse. Against the Hurricanes he erupted for 22 points and connected on 5-of-8 three point attempts. It was the only time he's reached double-figures in scoring in the last five games. If you take out the strong performance against Miami, Turner has struggled over that time period from the field, hitting just 8-of-28 shots in March. In the first meeting between the two teams, Turner came off the bench to spell Desmond Lee. Now, he's worked his way into the starting lineup. Meanwhille, Sulaimon was in the midst of breaking out of a slump when the teams met initially. The junior from Houston was the third guard off the bench, and scored 13 points in 17 minutes against the Wolfpack. Since then, he's won back his starting shooting guard position, and has played well. His major issue hasn't been getting to the rim, but finishing when he arrives at the basket. Still, he's scored in double-figures in four straight games while shooting 35 percent from long range. After Andre Dawkins failed to register much of an impact as a starter on Friday, it's likely that Sulaimon will be back in the lineup against State.

Small Forward

SF: Rodney Hood (6-8, 215, So.) vs. T.J. Warren (6-8, 215, Jr.)

This will be the best match-up on the floor. The reigning ACC Player of the Year against a player who will fight for lottery pick status in June. Aside from Creighton's Doug McDermott, there's not a player anywhere playing better or more dangerous than Warren. He's averaging 33.8 points per game over his last four while shooting a ridiculous 57.1 percent from the floor. The only knock over this stretch has been Warren's inability to hit the perimeter ball (3-of-12), but when you can get into the lane and finish or draw the foul, why shoot it from long range? Warren isn't content to just score either, he's averaging 8.5 rebounds over the last four games along with 2.3 assists, and 2.0 steals per game. In short, he's playing like a First Team All-American. Hood, meanwhile, has been very good in his own right, just not as good as Warren. Over his last four the Duke sophomore has gone for 19.5 points per game on 49 percent shooting. Hood hasn't, however, rebounded the ball overly well (2.8/game) over that time period. In the first match-up Hood and Warren went after one another, with Warren winning the individual battle (23 points, 8 boards compared to 11 points, 1 rebound, and three assists). Of course it didn't matter as Duke won by 35. If Hood can keep Warren to around 20 points on Saturday, and bother a number of shots, Duke should win. If Warren can get Hood into foul trouble, Duke will have to adjust - something the Blue Devils haven't done overly well for extended periods this season.

Power Forward

PF: Jabari Parker (6-8, 240, Fr.) vs. Kyle Washington (6-9, 225, Fr.)

Simply put, if NC State wins this matchup, they're winning the game. Probably by double-figures. The odds, however, seem to be against such an occurrence as Washington couldn't do a think with Parker in the first match up (Parker was the best player on the floor in that game) as the Duke freshman went for 23 points and seven rebounds in just 26 minutes. Of late, Parker had been attacking the basket relentlessly, and it resulted in a number of big games. However, against Clemson he settled for a number of contested jump shots - and started 0-of-7 from the floor before beginning to attack again and finishing 6-of-10 from the floor over the final 30 minutes. Look for Duke to establish Parker early on, with Washington considered successful if he makes things difficult for the super freshman.


C: Amile Jefferson (6-9, 215, So.) vs. Jordan Vandenberg (7-1, 245, Sr.)

Jefferson will give up size and strength to Vandenberg, but will have a big advantage in speed and quickness. That was the story in the first matchup when the Duke forward went for nine points and eight rebounds in just 24 minutes - equaling the combined total of Vanderberg and backup big man Beejay Anya. Jefferson began his ACC Tournament playing very well against Clemson, recording 13 boards against a more capable interior and rebounding side than he'll see on Saturday. Still, Duke has had a knack for allowing opposing centers to have big games throughout the season. Vandenberg was effective against Syracuse in State's upset win, scoring 10 points and grabbing five rebounds in 30 minutes of action, but it was the first time he'd scored more than four points since January 15th. His true value is blocking out and creating lanes for Warren and company to attack the rim.


Bench: Duke has more options, although Coach Mike Krzyzewski is content to run an eight man rotation in March. Whichever of Thornton or Cook doesn't start will get at least 20 minutes per game, while Marshall Plumlee gives Duke energy and rebounding in the paint (not to mention size and shot bothering, if not blocking). Against Clemson, Duke was hoping for a spark from Dawkins, but never got it so Coach K went to freshman Matt Jones who played well on defense, but has completely disavowed the world of the notion that he's a knock down or even reliable jump shooter (a reputation he enjoyed coming out of high school). Duke hasn't played Josh Hairston in several weeks aside from senior night, but even he got four points and five boards in 12 minutes against State last time. On the flip side, State is also content to run an eight or sometimes nine man rotation with Barber the first guard off the bench - and likely playing extended minutes. When opponents are looking to force a more mobile big, State will use Lennard Freeman (6-8, 245). When State needs size (in every sense of the word), they'll bring in 330 pound Beejay Anya. Desmond Lee could be an X factor (much like Dawkins) off the bench, but he's seen his minutes drop heavily in the ACC Tournament.

Coaching: Mike Krzyzewski vs. Mark Gottfried

Gottfried has done a nice job in rebuilding his roster after graduating most of State's best team in years a season ago. He brought in transfers, junior college players, and a very solid freshman class. He's had his team within a few controversial bounces of being assured an NCAA Tournament berth, but his team hasn't found consistency for much of the year. Is that cured by this four game winning streak? Perhaps. Still, it's hard to find anyone, anywhere that would pick this matchup in favor of the Wolfpack.


76 69
Prediction: The first matchup saw Duke do whatever they wanted. The Blue Devils took the foot off the gas midway through the second half, and cruised to a 35 point victory. But that game was at Cameron Indoor Stadium - where the Blue Devils have been unbeatable. This game is on the road where Duke has been not only beatable, but down right average. Certainly the Duke roster is better than State's (aside from Warren), but NC State is fighting for their season, while Duke is merely jockeying for seeding in the NCAA Tournament. The difference in approach was evident over the first few days in Greensboro as NC State battled and fought, while Duke narrowly avoided another second half meltdown and seemed lethargic in doing so. Aside from the emotions of senior night carrying Duke to a big victory over North Carolina, the Blue Devils are still the team whose last three games away from home have resulted in being out-scored by 17. Until Duke can play better away from home, it's hard to pick them as big winner. That being said, the Blue Devils are a better team and the matchup problems they pose State are greater than those posed by the Wolfpack. It won't be pretty, and it won't be easy. Duke won't be able to stop Warren, but we believe they can slow down the rest of the State roster, and will move on to the ACC Championship game.

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