PREVIEW: Duke (14-5) v. NC State (11-8)

The Blue Devils will look to break a three game losing streak when they travel to Raleigh to face the NC State Wolfpack on Saturday afternoon. The game will be broadcast by CBS beginning at 2:00 PM EST.


11-8 Overall, 1-5 Conference 


F- 00 Abdul-Malik Abu (11.9 ppg, 8.7 rpg)
G- 12 Anthony Barber (22.3 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 4.8 apg)
G- 15 Cody Martin (5.9 ppg, 4.6 rpg)
F- 24 Maverick Rowan (13.3 ppg, 3.4 rpg)
C- 21 BeeJay Anya (4.8 ppg, 5.3 rpg)



Junior scoring guard and one time fringe Duke target Anthony Barber is having himself quite a season.  An extremely quick and aggressive lead guard, Barber leads the teams in assists and scoring.  Though he’s not a tremendous threat from the perimeter, the 6-2 guard can knock down the open shot (33 percent), and he’s one of the league’s best free throw shooters as well.  Why does that matter?  Because Barber will be in attack mode throughout the game and will likely play close to the full 40 minutes.  He’s averaging 8.5 free throw attempts per game, and converting those at an 86 percent clip.

Inside, where Duke has struggled tremendously on the defensive end over the last three games, the Wolfpack will rely on starting power forward Abdul Malik-Abu for scoring and rebounding.  He enters the game having logged double-doubles in four of the last five contests.  For the season he’s averaging 12 points and nine rebounds, but over the last five contests he’s averaging 15.0 points and 10.1 rebounds per game.  



At least on the defensive end.  Over the last three games Duke has gotten into trouble because of an inability to rebound the basketball.  Against NC State that could spell trouble as the Wolfpack enter the game pulling in 6 more boards per game than their opponents, while also pulling in 44 percent of their own misses.   In short, Duke has to rebound better to have a chance.  Failure to do so will render Duke - once again - a jump shooting team that gets limited possessions and chances to score, while the opponent will have a chance to get second and third chances while chipping away at a limited rotation.  

Coach Krzyzewski has shown flashes of willingness to explore the Sean Obi or Chase Jeter phenomenons as part of the rotation.  Neither has done much to inspire confidence in earning additional minutes, but then again neither has been able to stay on the court (for various reasons) for extended periods of time either.   A trend that definitely needs to be reversed soon is the foul trouble for Brandon Ingram, who has been playing great as a stretch four on offense, and who is a good help defender when blocking shots.  It’s when Ingram is getting isolated against (much) stronger opponents that he’s drawing fouls and wearing down.  On another note…Get well, Amile Jefferson.     

As the game unfolds, State’s superior depth inside could mean trouble for Duke.


Both teams enter Saturday’s game dealing with injuries that have thrown a wrench in development and results.  It’s not a huge stretch to think that Duke could be 18-1 overall had Amile Jefferson not broken his foot.  The 6-foot-9 senior not only was a double-double machine for the first weeks of the season, he was the ingredient that turned Duke into a passable defensive team.  Without him the Blue Devils have been bad - both by circumstance and lack of execution.

Jefferson won’t be ready for this weekend’s game (nor any for a few more weeks at least), and so Duke will have to extend the rotation beyond six and a half players. 

Similarly, NC State is down to a rotation of seven players as well.  The Wolfpack are missing West Virginia transfer guard Terry Henderson who should have been the team’s compliment to Barber on the wing.  


- A win Saturday would not only make Duke one of just two programs with 200 wins this decade (also Kentucky), but would also be the program’s 250th ACC win since 1997.

- Duke employs one of the nation’s most lethal offensive attacks, ranking fifth in the NCAA in scoring offense (85.6) and fourth in the country in adjusted offensive efficiency (120.7).

- On the offensive end, Duke features two of the top six scorers in ACC play, as Brandon Ingram (18.7) is tied for fourth and Grayson Allen (18.3) ranks sixth in league play.  

- Duke has made 356 free throws this season, tied for fourth-most among major conference teams. Luke Kennard leads the nation with a .924 free throw percentage, which would set a new Duke freshman record.

- Duke ranks 20th nationally with an average of 5.5 blocks per game as Marshall Plumlee is averaging a career-best 2.0 per contest.

They Said It:

“They’ve got some great players sitting on the bench that they’re choosing not to play. I think ours is a little different. We’re down to where we don’t have as much.” - Mark Gottfried on the depth differences

The Prediction

Duke is clearly as vulnerable as the program has been in many years.  Three straight losses and going to place where the wheels fell off a season ago for a much more complete and talented squad.  NC State returns a lot more from that game than Duke (and those Blue Devils obliterated that Wolfpack team in the ACC Tournament), and despite a 1-5 record, State comes into the game with more momentum after blow out Pittsburgh on the road.  Meanwhile, Duke can’t find a crucial rebound or a way to get key stops down the stretch.  And Raleigh is a place that’s notoriously tough to play.    While Duke has had a week off to rest and prepare, this is a bad match-up for the Blue Devils in that NC State can pound Duke in the paint and exploit Duke’s major weaknesses.  Duke can counter with a big time offensive performance, but as Coach K has repeatedly said…the margin for error is so small.  And the road in the ACC is hardly friendly.  

Duke - 73
NC State - 75

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