Duke Vs. NC State Preview: Blue Devils Still Deplorably Great At Basketball

USA TODAY Sports

Duke is once again the odds-on favorite to win the ACC, and NC State is once again playing a game against Duke. Let's see what happens!

Duke Offense 11-12
Four Factors Percent Nat'l Rank
eFG% 52.8 38
Turnover Rate 17.6 38
Off Reb Rate 35.0 69
FTA/FGA 45.1 13

Duke Offense 12-13
Four Factors Percent Nat'l Rank
eFG% 54.9 19
Turnover Rate 16.1 10
Off Reb Rate 29.8 237
FTA/FGA 40.7 62

Duke @ StatSheet
2012 Stats
2013 Stats
2013 Roster
2013 Schedule

With a Plumlee and Austin Rivers going pro, and with Andre Dawkins sitting out the season, a step back seemed a reasonable possibility for Duke in 2013. Instead, the Blue Devils are better on paper than they were a year ago. Stinkin' Coach K and his stinkin' damned fine coaching ability. Just tremendously not cool, man.

In hindsight, it's the Blue Devils who should have been preseason favorites in the ACC, and right now it doesn't look like there's a whole lot standing in their way. NC State definitely isn't on their level right now, but it can still steal a win from the Kelly-less Devils tomorrow, and maybe that will kickstart the Pack for the rest of conference play.

Offensively, the improvement from last year to this one is slight, but then again, when you have a top-15 offense one season, it's kinda hard to improve dramatically the next. The Blue Devils are shooting better from three-point range while hitting their twos and free throws at about the same rates they did last year. Additionally, Duke has further cut down on turnovers, which is helping to compensate for the offensive boards they've lost. Miles Plumlee was one of the country's top 10 offensive rebounders last year, and while Mason is no slouch in this area, Duke definitely seems to be missing Miles on the glass.

Starters

Quinn Cook (6-1, 175) -- Cook was very efficient in limited minutes last season, so it's not exactly stunning that he's been able to transition smoothly into a full-time role. One big difference is his three-point shooting: last year he hit 25% from deep and this year he's at 45.8%. That's actually higher than his field goal percentage inside the arc. His assist and steal rates are good, and while he isn't getting to the free throw line very often, he's reliable when he does.

Seth Curry (6-2, 185) -- Oh, Seth Curry, you are my nightmare and I want you to go away already. As if losing Stephen and Davidson wasn't enough. No, the Currying just keeps on going, keeps on creating new nightmares. He will find a way to score at least five points on a single possession tomorrow; I have no doubt.

He is about the same as he ever was, with his workload increasing and eFG% improving a bit this year. That improvement in eFG% can largely be traced to his improved accuracy inside the arc, where he's shooting 53.1%. He's never made half his twos in a full season.

Rasheed Sulaimon (6-4, 185) -- Sulaimon got himself right comfy doing Duke things, as one does. He is hitting 37.5% from three and taking good care of the ball, but he's been a liability inside the arc, where he is shooting sub-44%.

Josh Hairston (6-7, 240) -- Here he is, your honorary Mr. Not Ryan Kelly for Saturday's game. Hairston may not see a huge minutes increase--and maybe shouldn't since he is bad at basketball--but he will get the start. He is a good offensive rebounder but shouldn't figure into the scoring very often, and he's only shooting 38.5% inside the arc despite a workload that is in only-shoot-when-wide-open-under-rim territory. He is incredibly foul-prone, and should he get into trouble early, Duke may be forced to turn to its backup supply of Plumlees, who are currently in mint condition, their boxes never having been opened. That'd be a real shame.

Mason Plumlee (6-10, 235) -- Mason is having a national player of the year-type season; I mean, the guy even started hitting his free throws on a regular basis. What is the damn deal with that? He's shooting better than 60% in the paint, he's rebounding well at both ends, he's bothering shots, and he's getting to the free throw line at an impressive rate. His ability to get to the line and make a decent percentage (65.8%) has really made him more dangerous offensively.

Bench

Tyler Thornton (6-1, 190), Alex Murphy (6-8, 220), Amile Jefferson (6-8, 195). Amiiiiiiiiiiiiile! We loved you, Amile! We wanted to give you a great many minutes as constant reminder of our affection. Why did you have to go breaking this fragile heart, and in front of all those people? That was our business, Amile! Well no matter, we've moved on. Met another blue-chip forward. His name is...Mark. He lives in Canada.

Thornton shoots only occasionally, but to his credit, he's become a solid three-point threat. That's pretty much the extent of his game, but it at least prevents him from being the basketball equivalent of a marble statue at the offensive end.

Alex Murphy was once known to do some stuff.

Duke Defense 11-12
Four Factors Percent Nat'l Rank
eFG% 47.1 89
Turnover Rate 18.7 259
Off Reb Rate 32.0 165
FTA/FGA 32.9 93

Duke Defense 12-13
Four Factors Percent Nat'l Rank
eFG% 41.8 11
Turnover Rate 22.0 110
Off Reb Rate 32.1 180
FTA/FGA 25.8 19

Defense was a surprising weakness for the Blue Devils last season--in the nine years prior to 2011-12, not once did Duke finish outside the top 20 in defensive efficiency. Last year they finished 70th.

The Blue Devils have improved their 2FG% defense significantly, and they're also forcing more turnovers. Defensive rebounding is still a bit of an issue, but far less so with the improvements made in the other factors.

The Pomeroy Predictor likes Duke by 10.

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