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NC State travels to Durham for rematch with Duke Blue Devils

Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Oh for the love of-- we gotta play these guys again? Y'know, funny thing about this year: Duke is as beatable as it's been in a while, and NC State hasn't been this bad in five years. Which is to say that of course this is the year NC State beats the Blue Devils in Durham. The level of cosmic certainty regarding this outcome is such that it is already written on a stone somewhere, on some planet or moon, in some universe; perhaps this universe, perhaps another.

The oddsmakers might not have caught on to this yet. The fans might not be aware of this impending result. But boy howdy is this result impending! It is so impending that I feel an ache of pointlessness. Why should I pretend to speculate on what is in fact certainty? Why address what will not matter? I don't know. I don't know anything anymore, man. Here's some sportsball shit and whatever, I guess. Duke is a hilarious name for a school.

Duke Offense -- Four Factors eFG% TO% OR% FT Rate
2015-16 Overall (National Rank) 55.1 (18) 14.5 (5) 36.4 (25) 41.1 (82)
2015-16 ACC Only (Conf. Rank) 56.4 (1) 16.1 (5) 31.9 (9) 35.9 (9)

Duke ... god, these turdball duncepack jerkbags. Sorry, I was picturing Marshall Plumlee when I wrote that. He makes me emotional. I'm working on this, I really am. I think with a good 45 years of therapy I can move past the Plumlees and their goddamned Indiana-assed, dull-headed, random-arm-launch-generator existences. Hm? Oh, right, sorry.

Duke has the second-most efficient offense in league play, thanks primarily to its ability to shoot the ball. That whole scorin' the ball thing is and will always be more important than anything else. The Blue Devils also opened league play with a forgiving schedule--they are 5-4, but they have zero wins against ACC teams in the Pomeroy top 50. Pomeroy rates it as the 10th-easiest league slate to date.

This is just a really pedestrian Duke team. The Devils can score with anybody, but  the modest offensive peripherals have to be a concern given the schedule. You can still make a March run with an elite offense and sub-standard defense--Notre Dame went to the Elite Eight with a similar profile last year. (Notre Dame also barely escaped its opening-round game.) But it's not ideal.

Like NC State, Duke is nearly set in a we-are-who-we-are situation, personnel-wise. The difference is Amile Jefferson, who can alter the dynamic of this Duke team with his return. And he very well could be back on Saturday.

Jefferson is an x-factor of sorts going into the last month of the season, but the offense doesn't need more support. What can he do for the defense?

Duke Defense -- Four Factors eFG% TO% OR% FT Rate
2015-16 Overall (National Rank) 48.7 (119) 17.4 (233) 32.8 (287) 24.9 (7)
2015-16 ACC Only (Conf. Rank) 49.1 (6) 15.1 (12) 35.2 (14) 24.3 (1)

Duke did a solid job rebounding the ball at this end in the first meeting against State, and that was without Jefferson. If Jefferson is back, it's a fair bet the Blue Devils will repeat that performance. As for the overall impact of his return, it's tough to gauge ... he'll help the interior defense, but his presence doesn't change the fact that there are several liabilities on the team at this end of the floor.

He'll definitely take pressure off of Brandon Ingram, which is something that could reverberate throughout the lineup. That's the problem with basketball speculating in a lot of cases, though--environments change and the chain reactions associated with them are difficult to estimate. Jefferson's presence would be a bonus, but he also probably doesn't make Duke's defense markedly better.

The Pomeroy Predictor likes Duke by 12.