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Next Up - NC State

Time: 8:00 || Venue: PNC || Video: ESPN

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North Carolina State v Duke
 DURHAM, NC - JANUARY 23: Dennis Smith Jr. #4 of the North Carolina State Wolfpack drives in for an emphatic dunk after time expires during their win against the Duke Blue Devils at Cameron Indoor Stadium on January 23, 2017 in Durham, North Carolina. North Carolina State won 84-82.
Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

Saturday Duke goes to Raleigh to play NC State and if you haven’t read Al Featherston’s Thursday piece we recommend you do it.

We hate not playing State twice. With all due respect, who cares about the Deacs?

We like Wake Forest don’t get us wrong, but they chose to move to Winston, not State. They could have stayed in, well, Wake Forest, which would make sense, but chose to take the big money and move to No Man’s Land.

The Triangle teams are the beating heart of the ACC and all of us should play each other twice. Period.

For that matter, we repeat our call to NC State, but Duke too: both teams should honor Everett Case’s dying wish and drive down 70 so he could wave from his resting place. It might even be a nicer trip than 40 lately, which has turned into a somehow teleported section of SoCal traffic HELL.

But we digress.

Anyone who assumes Duke is automatically going to beat State overlooks a few things.

First, even in a truly dreadful, dysfunctional season last year, State knocked off Duke, in Cameron, complete with a taunting, emphatic final dunk from Dennis Smith.

Duke’s been strong since 1984 while State has mostly fallen off the rails since the end of the Valvano era. They’ve had a few good teams but the last ACC title came with Vinny Del Negro and Del Negro left NC State during the last months of the Reagan Administration.

Even so, State still smites Duke on a semi-regular basis.

Second, Kevin Keatts went toe-to-toe with Duke as the Wilmington coach. He complained recently about not having ACC talent but he didn’t have it at Wilmington either, now did he?

Third, as much as we miss Reynolds, and as weak a home court as the new place usually is, whatever it’s called - the ESA, RBC or PNC - it’s PNC now but make up your damn minds already - well they might lose to UNCG in front of a weak crowd that dragged their asses down Wade Avenue to get there but Duke, like UNC, will draw a full house. Duke is heavily favored, but get a bunch of wide-eyed freshmen in front of that crowd of hostile, boozed-up Wolfies and all bets are off.

We’re joking, a little anyway, but there’s always drinking at State games (and Duke games too). That’s no surprise.

We had a State grad explain once that the difference between Duke and State was that Duke fans yelled together and State fans just got drunk and yelled their heads off.

So any way you look at it, State’s fans will come loud and if Keatts can challenge Duke again and the Pack stays a five-minute game talent matters, but not nearly as much. Game pressure matters more and State will be on the happy side of that equation.

All that aside, Keatts is quite right - Duke will have more talent. State doesn’t have an obvious answer for Marvin Bagley or Wendell Carter. We’re not sure that Javin DeLaurier and Marques Bolden wouldn’t start for State. Then there’s Grayson Allen, Tricky Trevon Duval and Minnesotan Gary Trent who, by the way, is probably happy he’s not a Gopher today. What is it with Pitinos and scandal anyway?

We assume you’re pretty familiar with Duke’s roster by now. State’s may be a bit more obscure.

Last time out, Keatts started Lennard Freeman, Omer Yurtseven, Al Freeman, Torin Dorn and Braxton Beverly.

He’s down a critical player without point guard Markell Johnson, suspended after assault charges were filed against him back in Ohio. However, Beverly is capable if callow and can occasionally light it up from three point range.

Dorn is averaging 13.2 ppg and shooting .552.

Freeman, a grad student transfer from Baylor (Al, not Lennard) is averaging 15.3 ppg but has taken some criticism from State fans for not being a team player.

Lennard Freeman is back from the knee injury that kept him out last year and is a vastly improved player.

So is Omer Yurtseven. Last year he could only be regarded as a disappointment and would’ve surely joined the post-Gottfried exodus out of Raleigh, likely to the NBA, if he had had a good enough season.

So it’s not as if State is completely bereft and the Pack was pretty brilliant in the upset of Arizona earlier this season. If we were betting, we’d expect to see State hit that level, rather than the 30 point loss they just had at Notre Dame. Duke and State don’t play as often as they should, but State tends to get up for Duke like they do for UNC. And the last three times Duke has come to the PNC Arena ranked #1 or #2, State has won.

Duke comes in at #2.

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