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NC State hosts Duke with the Pack in dire need of a big win

Not ideal circumstances.

NCAA Basketball: Florida State at Duke Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

I had a disturbing question hit me the other day: does the absence of Coach K make Duke more likeable? I’m concerned that it might. Maybe I’m not feeling well. Probably this has to do with the fact that State hasn’t played Duke yet and I haven’t bothered to watch much of the Blue Devils this season.

Duke comes into the game tonight 11-3 (2-1) and No. 14 in the Pomeroy Ratings. That league loss was an 11-point defeat at Wake Forest, which was also Duke’s first road game of the season.

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss?

Duke in '23 Adj OE/DE (rk) eFG% TO% OR% 2FG% 3FG%
Duke in '23 Adj OE/DE (rk) eFG% TO% OR% 2FG% 3FG%
Offense 113.0 (20) 50.3 (161) 17.6 (97) 38.7 (5) 51.2 (129) 32.5 (227)
Defense 92.4 (33) 45.4 (33) 19.9 (110) 25.1 (53) 47.4 (108) 27.8 (19)

There are still lots of ways that Jon Scheyer’s first team looks like his predecessor’s; for example, Coach K teams were regularly good at both suppressing three-point attempts and getting teams to shoot poorly on the attempts they do get. That’s true of Duke this season as well.

Duke has improved defensively in general this season, which probably has something to do with all the tall guys Scheyer has to work with. There’s Kyle Filipowski (7’0, 230), who leads the team in scoring, and Dereck Lively (7’1, 230), and Ryan Young (6’10, 235) up front. The Blue Devils also have good size on the wings.

The team ranks 54th in block rate, and Lively has been an elite shot blocker in his limited time on the court. They’ve also leveraged that size into excellent rebounding at both ends of the floor.

NC State is going to have to stay focused and give a good collective effort to keep Duke off the offensive boards. The Blue Devils have only been an average shooting team this season, worse from beyond the arc, and without those second-chance bailout opportunities, who knows, maybe they’d be in for a rough night.

Filipowski figures to set the tone, since he’s taking over 28% of Duke’s shots while he’s on the floor. He’s only shooting 49.1% inside the arc, and he’s also 14-49 from three—but he is good at getting to the line, where he’s a good shooter.

Maybe some of his shots should move over to Young, who is 45-60 from the field and 24-27 from the free throw line this season. Young was a primary contributor at Northwestern who has watched his workload sink dramatically, but that has certainly done a lot of his efficiency. These are the luxuries a place like Duke gets: there were other places he could have transferred and remained a primary scoring option, I’m sure.

NC State will have to figure out how best to defend the interior, especially when DJ Burns gets into foul trouble, as he inevitably will.

It’s a big game for State, because home games against NCAA tournament teams are few and far between in this year’s ACC. The Wolfpack has three of those, and this is the first and perhaps most important.

KenPom likes Duke by two.