Rivalry picks: Duke hosts NC State
Posted February 7, 2013
Durham, N.C. — Thursday's contest at Cameron Indoor marks the 237th meeting between in-state rivals North Carolina State and Duke.
The Blue Devils hold a 138-98 advantage in the series. NC State defeated the then No. 1 ranked Duke in their first meeting this season but the Blue Devils have won 14 straight against the Wolfpack in Cameron Indoor Stadium.
Duke is 19-2 (6-2 ACC) on the season and NC State is 16-6 (5-4 ACC). NC State point guard Lorenzo Brown is doubtful after spraining his left ankle during last week's loss at Virginia and Duke forward Ryan Kelly is still out.
As in any rivalry, it is not about the record; it is about the pride and bragging rights that go along with beating the combatant with whom you share nothing more than bad blood.
The WRAL sports staff weighs in on Thursday's rivalry game offering their keys to the game and tell you who they think will win.
There are so many MASH unit unknowns that it’s difficult to pick this one. Lorenzo Brown hasn’t practiced since he was injured against Virginia. He is so instrumental in the Wolfpack’s transition offense, something Coach K and Mason Plumlee pointed out. Lo or no Lo, Duke says they have to do a better job with transition defense.
Without Brown against Miami, freshman Tyler Lewis and Rodney Purvis played the point. Lewis pumped in 16 points and made some very crafty passes. But he nor Purvis have ever played at Cameron against Duke and the defensive pressure they face against Duke will be tougher than Miami.
Duke has changed quite a bit since that January 12 loss at NC State. For one, they have gotten a better feel of playing without Ryan Kelly. Amile Jefferson was thrown in the deep end and has done a commendable job. Duke may not have Josh Hairston to bang bodies with the Wolfpack. A cut that required stitches got infected and his arm has been in a sling. If Hairston can’t play that could mean more minutes for Marshall Plumlee and Alex Murphy.
The best player on the floor should be CJ Leslie but he’s not always interested in what’s going on at both ends of the court. That unpredictability has shown up in the team’s play as well. But I expect Leslie and the Wolfpack to be at their attentive best. The returning players remember their 20 point lead they had at Cameron last year. Duke’s returning players remember how they came back and won the game.
It’s well documented that NC State hasn’t beaten Duke twice in the regular season since the 1994-95 season. That’s the year Coach K’s bad back kept him off the bench. NC State hasn’t beaten a Coach K team twice in the regular season since 1988. I don’t see Lorenzo Brown pulling a Willis Reed return so my pick for Duke vs. State part 2 is with history and the home team.
One year ago, NC State presented matchup problems for Duke at every position. The Wolfpack stormed out to a big lead at Cameron, only to see Duke erase it with one of the most impressive comebacks in recent ACC history.
I'm not expecting anything quite that dramatic for this game, but I am predicting a Wolfpack win.
Regardless of Lorenzo Brown's status, I'm expecting the Pack to continue to be a challenging matchup for Duke. As long as State's frontcourt duo of CJ Leslie and Richard Howell can stay out of foul trouble, State should control the paint against the Devils - and that should go a long way towards determining the winner.
For this game, I'm seeing red.
Pick: NCSU 77 Duke 71
I am picking Duke for this one. The Blue Devils seem to have figured out how to play without Ryan Kelly. The last time these two teams played, the Kelly injury was very new. Duke is now adjusted and will have the extra motivation having lost the first meeting. With the status of Lorenzo Brown uncertain, it’s hard to pick the Pack. Tyler Lewis played well against Miami, but that was in front of a friendly crowd. I’m interested to see how he does at Cameron. NC State is a different team when they leave Raleigh. They haven’t quite figured out how to win on the road. Duke wins this one and I think it’s convincing.
No question on who needs this one more, as a State victory not only stops a four-out-of-six losing skid but also secures a regular season sweep. The X-Factor will be the freshmen, as assuming there’s no Zo once again, Rodney Purvis and Tyler Lewis will be called upon to repeat their fine performances ala the Miami game. However, the top 13th grader in Thursday’s game wears blue, as Rasheed Sulaimon’s been scorching since his 0-10 shooting performance against the Pack. Sulaimon has averaged 15 points per game since that loss, a stat that would higher if he hoisted more than only four shots against Wake Forest. Duke made no bones about it on Tuesday that the terrific transition game of State cost them in “round one. The potential absence of Lorenzo Brown plus the Devils’ increased focus on that fast-paced attack will alter that in the rematch. All things considered, this just doesn’t seem like the type of game Duke typically loses. The deck is stacked in the Devils’ favor, so I’m all-in with Duke.
Pick: Duke 74 NCSU 66
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Man, I'd really love to see these two teams at full strength! It appears that all-conference point guard Lorenzo Brown is doubtful with a sprained ankle leaving the Wolfpack with a serious hole in their rotation. Alas, maybe in Greensboro?
Tonight however, it appears that each will be without key pieces. The Blue Devils have been without senior co-captain Ryan Kelly for a few weeks now and have, in theory, started to figure out how to play without the 6'11" forward. Freshman Amile Jefferson has filled in nicely, playing with a high level of energy and doing a nice job rebounding. But Jefferson is not an offensive threat at this point whereas Kelly was a 52% shooter from 3-point range. Without that additional threat, Jefferson's defender can either double down on Mason Plumlee or otherwise clog up the lane and make it difficult for Duke's guards to get to the basket.
Brown's absence creates a real set of issues for Mark Gottfried. Freshman Tyler Lewis is now the only sure-handed perimeter player with the ball, and Duke knows that. I'd expect the Devils to attack Lewis pretty hard and force someone else to make the key decisions on offense. State's biggest edge is on the offensive boards and that's where they'll have to make a difference.
I expect a game similar to what we saw in Raleigh, one that comes down to the final five minutes. The only difference is that I think the Blue Devils will be holding off the Wolfpack.
Pick: Duke 76 NCSU 69
Regardless of trends entering Thursday's contest between Duke and NC State, the Wolfpack still hold certain matchup advantages over the Blue Devils. Richard Howell and Calvin Leslie will continue to be problems for Mason Plumlee and Amile Jefferson.
Also keep in mind that NC State wasn't all that intimidated by the environment inside Cameron last season. The wheels fell off because the Wolfpack dealt with foul trouble, most of it thanks to their own mistakes.
The key tonight is Duke's defense on Tyler Lewis, who filled in admirably for Lorenzo Brown in a last second loss to Miami on Saturday. Unlike the Hurricanes, the Blue Devils do an excellent job attacking unsure ball handlers. Just take a look at games against Maryland and Georgia Tech.
I think Duke will focus on that mismatch and ultimately win in a close game.
The last time these two teams met, Duke was playing its first game without Ryan Kelly. NC State was at home, focused on Duke and played its best game of the season. The Wolfpack were ready to avenge last year's collapse where State couldn't hold a 20 point lead with 11 and a half minutes to go in Cameron.
This year at the PNC Arena, State was the aggressor and once the Pack took the lead right before the half and didn't give it back. Richard Howell had 18 boards, CJ Leslie poured in 25 points and Lorenzo Brown had 13 assists and it appeared that State was ready to be the new king of the ACC, while Duke had to find a way to adjust to life without Kelly.
Since then, the Blue Devils have adapted just fine going 4-1 while the Pack have struggled to a 2-4 record. Normally the Blue Devils hold a major advantage over the opposition at games played at Cameron, but NC State doesn't appear to be intimidated by Duke. However, the Pack have not been the same team away from its home floor this year, going 1-3 on the road in conference play.
The Wolfpack will be looking to duplicate the game plan from January 12th. The availability of Pack guard Lorenzo Brown could have a big impact on this game. If he can play, Mark Gottfried can use several combinations to attack the Blue Devils, especially since Tyler Lewis showed he can handle running the point after his big game against Miami. State's line-up poses match-up problems for Duke even without Brown with CJ Leslie being the biggest headache to solve. He was able to get Devils freshman Amile Jefferson in foul trouble and freed up space for Howell down low. State will have to play better on the boards early in this one, and play with the lead in order to sweep the season series.
The formula for Duke is simple, make three's, get the ball to Mason Plumlee on the block, get the Pack into early foul trouble. Simple, I know. While Duke is better with Ryan Kelly in the line-up, they have improved and learned to play without him. Mason Plumlee is the key to the offense, if he gets going it opens up the perimeter where Seth Curry and Rasheed Suliamon can be freed up for open looks. Suliamon was 0-10 from the floor in the first game, that number is sure to improve. One other factor, how many times has a Mike Krzyzewski team been swept in an ACC season series in the last 10 years with the run back game played at Cameron. Answer, not a lot. Duke will learn from the mistakes made in round one and will find a way to take the rematch.
Pick: Duke 81 NCSU 77
Lorenzo Brown may play, Ryan Kelly will not. That is about the only thing working in NC State’s favor Thursday when the Wolfpack visit Duke.
ACC teams as a conference are 119-28 in home games this year and just 28-49 in road contests. Duke is a perfect 11-0 in Cameron while State is 1-4 in true road games. Plus, Duke has won the last 14 meetings between the teams in Durham.
Records aside, both teams can score. Defense is another story. Duke has a national top-5 toughest strength of schedule and is surrendering seven fewer points per game than NC State. Duke has only given up over 70 points four times all year.
Which brings us to the next point - emotional balance. NC State was one of those teams to get over 70. In fact they scored 84 points in a win over the Blue Devils at PNC Arena. The last time NC State beat Duke in back-to-back games was 1994-95. Coincidently, that was the year Coach K was out following back surgery.
Coach K will be on the bench Thursday, Duke wins, easily.
NC State came to play during the Wolfpack and Blue Devils' last meeting this season but there a few major differences this go round that will most likely lead to a different outcome. NC State will be without Lorenzo Brown who has been a major component of their team and the Wolfpack have struggled without him. Duke will again be without Ryan Kelly against the Wolfpack but Mason Plumlee stepped up to the plate and the team has since learned how to compete without him. Kelly would definitely be an aid to the team Thursday night, but his absence should not hurt the Blue Devils.
Cameron Indoor is a tough environment to play in and though the Wolfpack had a 20-point lead at one point last year, ultimately Coach K guided his team to the victory. NC State will have to bring their best game to hang but Duke should take the win at home.
With Lorenzo Brown doubtful at best, it's going to be a struggle for NC State to hang with the Blue Devils in Cameron Indoor Stadium. Even with Brown, Duke would have the edge from being at home and having a chip on its shoulder thanks to NC State's win in January.
Expect the Blue Devils to put the pressure on Tyler Lewis and Rodney Purvis in the back court, which will likely lead to turnovers and easy buckets on the other end. NC State can keep it close by going inside to C.J. Leslie and Richard Howell, but this should end up being a comfortable win for Duke.
Pick: Duke 81 NCSU 68