College Basketball Pick
For the first time in a long time, Duke is out of the AP Top 25. It’s not without reason as the Blue Devils lost Four of five Games before the start of this week. The good news is that they’re home to NC State, the one team they beat in that stretch. It’s been a long season for the Wolfpack, who are now 2-8 in Conference play and are in need of some big wins if they want to see any kind of postseason Tournament.
NC State has had signs of life with a road win at Pittsburgh and then a win over Miami, but between those Games just hasn’t put it together with another bad home loss to Georgia Tech and they recently got swept by Florida State.
Amile Jefferson is still out for Duke, but that shouldn’t matter in this matchup, as the Blue Devils won 88-78 the first time around after scoring 52 points in the second half. Grayson Allen was too much to deal with on the perimeter as he scored 28 points. The same can be said about freshman Brandon Ingram, who was clearly a matchup problem for the Wolfpack. Ingram is Duke’s power forward, but he’s athletic and has a great shot from deep, which led to Four threes and 25 points in that first Game.
For NC State to have a chance, they’ll need to mix something up because this Game could be even tougher than the first one. The Wolfpack actually led by seven points at halftime in that last meeting.
Neither one of these teams has depth, so not much will change player-wise and that’s a problem for NC State. They have the size advantage with BeeJay Anya and Abdul-Malik Abu down low, but when those guys combine for 18 points against a high-scoring Duke team, that’s not going to cut it. Duke played a lot of zone in the first Game and the length of Ingram presented a lot of problems for NC State’s guards.
Cat Barber finished with 19 points in the first Game, but since that, he has reached 30 points in three straight. Barber is everything to the Wolfpack, but even then, that’s still not enough. There isn’t much help outside of Barber, like the aforementioned bigs. Anya and Abu need better Games in the post because otherwise, there just isn’t enough points scored for the Wolfpack, who are not a great defensive team.
Ingram and Allen should have solid Games once again unless NC State mixes up its defensive scheme to limit what those guys — especially Ingram — can do on the perimeter. Ingram is still a freshman and struggles at times and that’s the route the Wolfpack need to take first. If not, Ingram will get 20-plus points again to go with whatever Allen, Matt Jones and LUke Kennard get and that will probably be enough against a team that only has one consistent scorer.
NC State tends to play in close Games, so that’s the only thing going for them in this road Game at Cameron Indoor. Of course, it also has to be mentioned that the Blue Devils have lost two straight at home. That could either be extra motivation or maybe just shows a real fault with this team.
Predicted Score- Duke 90 NC State 75