Preview: Duke (15-3) @ NC State (11-6)

Previewing the Blue Devils and Wolfpack who tip off in Raleigh on Saturday afternoon in a key ACC battle. Tip off is scheduled for 3:30 PM EST.

17 Duke (15-3, 2-2) @ North Carolina State (11-6, 1-3)
Raleigh, N.C. - RBC Center
3:30 p.m., ESPN

Program Vitals
Conference: Atlantic Coast Conference
Nickname: Wolfpack
Colors: Red & White
Head Coach:  Sidney Lowe  (1st year)
Career Record at NC State: 11-6 

Projected Starters:
33 Brandon Costner (6-9, 237, Fr.) - 16.6 ppg, 7.8 rpg
11 Gavin Grant (6-8, 203, Jr.) – 16.1 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 4.8 apg
34 Ben McCauley (6-10, 235, So.) – 16.6 ppg, 6.6 rpg
31 Dennis Horner (6-9, 208, Fr.) – 6.2 ppg, 3.5 rpg
 4 Courtney Fells (6-5, 209, So.) – 11.6 ppg, 3.9 rpg

Key Reserves:
14 Engin Astur (6-4, 201, Sr.) - 11.5 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 5.2 apg
15 Trevor Ferguson (6-5, 179, Fr.) – 3.0 ppg
20 Bryan Nieman (6-6, 219, Sr.) – 2.7 ppg, 2.1 rpg
 3 Darrell Davis (6-5, 195, Fr.) – 1.0 ppg


How They Got Here: After dropping the first two conference games, Duke has bounced back with a pair of 22 point victories over Miami and Wake Forest to hit the .500 mark in conference play and 15-3 overall. Meanwhile the Wolfpack have won the games they were supposed to win, and battled in those that were projected to be tough. To date the Pack has an 11-6 overall record, but has just one of thier four conference games - that one was a 14 point win at Wake Forest last Saturday. Since that win, NC State has not played - giving them a week off, while Duke will be playing their second game in 45 hours.

Series History:
Saturday afternoon will mark the 227th time the two teams have met, with Duke holding a 131-95 advantage in the series. The Blue Devils have won three straight since losing 78-74 at the RBC Center on February 15th, 2005. All time the Blue Devils are 4-2 at NC State's new facility - a marked departure from their 25-35 all time record at Reynolds Coliseum. Under the guidance of Mike Krzyzewski, the Blue Devils have won 40 of 58 games against NC State.

Injury Report: Duke sophomore guard Martynas Pocious will likely be unavailable for the Blue Devils for the fourth straight game as he rehabs from an ankle injury. Meanwhile North Carolina State's best point guard option, senior Engin Astur, is doubtful after sustaining another injury against Boston College.

A New Face(s) In Town:
After years of facing a Herb Sendek led offense, the Blue Devils will see a different system in place when they tip off with the Pack on Saturday as Sydney Lowe has come home to Tobacco Road. Though the depth chart in Raleigh was extremely thing following a long and tedious coaching search, Lowe has made the most of what he has by guiding State to an 11-6 overall record. Last Saturday Lowe was able to get his first conference win as a head coach. The head coach isn't the only memeber of the Wolfpack who will be seeing Duke for the first time. In fact only Gavin Grant and Engin Astur have logged minutes against the Blue Devils.

Iron Man Basketball For Lowe's Bunch:
With very little depth available, NC State has relied on an intensive preseason fitness regiment that prepared several players to play big minutes this year. Entering Saturday's game, four players average 34.9 or more minutes for the Pack led by junior forward Gavin Grant at 37.5 minutes per night. Before his injury problems, Astur played nearly 30 minutes per game. Dennis Horner, the only non-starter to play in every game, averages just over 23 minutes per night. Despite the high number of minutes, only five times has a starter fouled out.

The ACC's Top Freshman:
Sure everyone has heard about the first year players for Duke and North Carolina, but the most productive freshman has been NC State's Brandon Costner who leads all ACC rookies in both scoring and rebounding. Actually it's Costner's second year in the league, after being granted a medical redshirt following a stress fracture in his leg last year after just five games.

At 6'9 and 240 pounds, Costnor is a beast on the boards - logging a school record 19 earlier this season against UNC-Wilmington. In four ACC games he's averaging 16.5 points and 8.3 rebounds.

Look Up There, Way Up There:
Without a true point guard in the rotation, the NC State Wolfpack currently start five big players - all of whom would be at home at the 3-5 spots. At 6-foot-5, Courtney Fells is the shortest projected starter with the other four going 6'8, 6'9, 6'9, and 6'10. Gavin Grant, at 6'8, is listed as G/F on the official roster and leads the team in assists (aside from the injured Astur) at 4.8 per game.

Dr. Jeckl and Mr. Hyde:
Duke has won two straight conference games by 22 points apiece. Though the margin of victory was the same, the way in which Duke won couldn't have been more different. After torching Miami for 85 points and shooting nearly 70% from the field for the game, the Blue Devils returned home and promptly couldn't throw it in the ocean for long stretches - topping the 60 point plateau on a meaningless three pointer with eight seconds left. While the Duke offense couldn't score, the defense logged its most impressive statistical showing of the season, holding Wake Forest to just 40 points. Which team will show up in Raleigh on Saturday afternoon? It's the $64,000 question.

Speaking Of Unpredictable:
At times sophomore Greg Paulus has played extremely poorly this season. At times he's played well. Against Miami and Wake Forest Paulus was on top of his game - hitting the outside jumper (16.0 ppg) while also taking care of the basketball (7 assists vs. 3 turnovers). In Duke's two losses to Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech Paulus' numbers were much less impressive - 3.0 ppg (2-9 FG), 3 assists, and 9 turnovers.

Unfamiliar Rankings:
Duke hasn't been ranked this low (17th) in a number of years. However, the Blue Devils have enjoyed success as the nation's No. 17 team in the past, posting a 16-8 all time mark when slotted in that position. Despite not being near the top spot this season, the Blue Devils have been ranked No. 1 in 14 of the last 21 seasons under Coach K.

What We See Happening/Keys To The Game:
The Wolfpack's size will give Duke fits. The Blue Devils will have to rely on the ability of the perimeter game to attack the basket and draw fouls. This will be a great opportunity for McRoberts to create match up problems on the offensive end, but on the flip side it'll be tough for him to defend the post against State's size. Simply put, Duke will not win this game if Greg Paulus reverts to the player seen in the first two conference games - nor can they prevail if Scheyer and Nelson don't establish themselves. Lance Thomas will need to avoid the foul trouble that's plagued him over the last month and establish himself on the boards.


Duke 66
NC State 61

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