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Next Up - The Pack

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State travels to Durham tonight for the last time under the round robin
format. Next year, the teams will play only once, after decades of home-and-home
matchups. Coach K has complimented State for solid fundamentals, and if we
have spotted Engin Atsur playing at a high level, he obviously has. That
kid has done some pretty amazing things pretty quietly. He's a definite
X-factor. Levi Watkins says that State is confident they can win,
particularly after last year's ACC Tournament performance, before JJ Redick went
on one of the great tears in ACC tourney history. Only the fact that the media
had already voted on Most Outstanding Player prevented Redick's winning
it. Daniel Ewing deserved it for the first two games, but Redick's
performance was one for the ages.

It's too bad that Josh Powell bolted, because this year, a Powell-Williams
matchup down low would be spectacular. Powell had moments of greatness,
but it's water under the bridge now. Enjoy the smoking leagues!

State's Levi Watkins is "very confident" they can beat Duke, and we
wouldn't rule it out, certainly. There are a couple of patterns to recent
Duke-State games. The first one is that Duke just runs over State, and
that happens at times. The other is that Duke starts to run over State,
then State has a really tremendous rally which starts to late, and cuts the lead
to about 7 before Duke pushes it back out of reach and wins by about 14 after
leading by 20 or more.

And recently, State has certainly played with Duke, most impressively last
spring in the tournament Finals, when they dominated Duke for much of the game,
before Redick erupted. We admire State's defense, even as we marvel at
their periodic periods of offensive offense, those long stretches when State
can't do anything right on their end of the court.

Duke has an obvious advantage in the middle, with Williams, and solid
perimeter defense and offense. And either Marcus Melvin or Ilian Evtimov
has to contend with young Deng, who, despite some adjustments to ACC play, is
improving by leaps and bounds. Or heck, they could stick Julius Hodge on

Duke's focus is likely going to be attacking the ball, because while Mike O'
Donnell has been valiant, his teammates don't call him "the little
guy" without reason. He's gutty and tough, but he is little and may
not enjoy seeing Chris Duhon come out and Sean Dockery come in. And while early
signs indicate Engin Atsur's basketball IQ could be off the charts, he hasn't
seen the really tough teams in the ACC just yet. So the jury is still out,
even though they're very impressed.

State's offense runs through Evtimov, primarily, though we suspect that Atsur
may start sharing that responsibility, and we are curious about how the
chemistry between he and Evtimov might develop. It could become something

All things considered, State has a team which, though small, can hit you
defensively, with sharp passing, and really good outside shooting. The
offensive funks are still there, but you'd have to be crazy to think they didn't
have a shot in this game.