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NC State meets Duke with another season-defining result on the line

State can punch its NCAA tournament ticket with a season sweep of Duke.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: FEB 19 Duke at NC State Photo by John McCreary/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

NC State is making the return trip to Durham with the opportunity to sweep Duke, and this is another situation where State can level up: the win over the Blue Devils a dozen days ago put State right on the NCAA tournament cut line, and a win Monday night can put it beyond that line without a doubt.

Duke’s not going to shoot as poorly as it did in the first meeting, that’s a damn-near certainty. It’s not just playing at home and finding those rims comforting that helps; there’s the added comfort in knowing that the refs in your building are worth at least a few points.

So the challenge is much steeper this time, but the route to victory is the same: make Duke work harder to score in the paint, because the Blue Devils aren’t comfortable with taking a lot of jump shots.

NC State did a great job of limiting everyone other than Vernon Carey, who shot 10-18 inside the arc. The rest of the Blue Devils shot 12-34 (35.3%) on twos, and NC State would gladly take that exchange again. State kept the randoms from having a big day, kept Duke off the offensive glass, and made Duke’s offense uncomfortable.

Can State do that again, and this time in the rat trap where few get a fair shot? Hey, there’s been weirder things.