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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Wednesday, February 6, 2013 at 8:55 PM

The first time Duke and North Carolina State met this year, the Blue Devils were undefeated and running roughshod over the college basketball landscape. They had played a tough early schedule, and power ratings used by the media and by sports bettors considered them the best team in the country.

NC State was the first team to break through and REMIND everyone that Duke becomes more vulnerable as a season progresses.

*Duke’s excellent coaching is a big strength early in the season when many other powers are integrating new lineups. Duke’s advantage on the sideline loses some luster against teams who have played against Coach K for years and years.

*Duke’s “home cooking” perks of friendly officiating and familiarity with the unique shooting backdrop at Cameron Indoor disappear in ROAD CONFERENCE games where things are a bit more fair for opponents.

*Duke’s traditional lack of physicality becomes more of an issue the deeper you get into a season because the players start getting worn down from fatigue.

NC State beat Duke 84-76 in Raleigh, winning every single stat category that matters (two-point shooting, three-point shooting, free throws, turnovers, and rebounds). It wasn’t a game where the Wolfpack had to shoot lights out from long range to steal a win. Duke actually made a couple more three-pointers 6-4 (at 30% compared to 50% though), meaning State won INSIDE, against the soft Blue Devils underbelly.

Not long after that, Miami of Florida took the same principals to an extreme, completely blasting Duke in one of the worst Blue Devils losses in recent history.

Obviously the two biggest rematches Duke is most looking forward to are those games against NC State and Miami. The first one comes THURSDAY in a game many of you will be watching on TV. Let’s run the matchup through our indicator gauntlet to see if the Wolfpack have a chance for a sweep….or if they’re in store for a revenge spanking from the fired up Blue Devils.

WON-LOST RECORDS

NC State: 16-6 (5-4 in the ACC)

Duke: 19-2 (6-2 in the ACC)

It’s important to remember that State is only 4-4 in ACC action this year outside of the Duke game. They did beat North Carolina in a Saturday Night Showcase…but consistency hasn’t been one of their characteristics. Duke still has only two blemishes for the season, even if they did expose potential NCAA Tournament issues in those losses.

COMPUTER RANKINGS

NC State: #21 with Sagarin, #32 with Pomeroy

Duke: #5 with Sagarin, #5 with Pomeroy

Jeff Sagarin of USA today and college basketball guru Ken Pomeroy aren’t in agreement on NC State. One has them as about a 4-5 seed, the other has them more like an 8-9 team. Thursday’s ROAD test will loom very large in determining how the nation sees NC State heading into March. Losing badly would form more of a consensus around the 8-9 range. Hanging tough, or pulling off a sweep would cast things in a whole different light. You regulars know that we typically think Duke is overrated by the media, the fans, AND the computers come March. That’s for neutral site tournament basketball though. Home games can turn these guys into monsters because of the unique factors in play at Cameron Indoor.

COMPUTER STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE RANKINGS

NC State: #21 with Sagarin, #22 with Pomeroy

Duke: #3 with Sagarin, #2 with Pomeroy

The computers do agree on schedule strengths. Duke is rewarded for scheduling tough early (when Coach K has tactical and experience advantages over many teams he faces). NC State has scheduled fairly tough too by national standards.

WON-LOST RECORDS VS. SAGARIN’S TOP 50

NC State: 4-5

Duke: 6-2

No surprise here…as Duke only has those two really bad games, while NC State’s lack of consistency is a problem vs. quality. They’re capable of clicking and looking fantastic. They’re capable of losing focus and kicking the ball around for 10 minutes at a time.

JOE LUNARDI’S BRACKETOLOGY

NC State: projected #6 seed

Duke: projected #1 seed

Lunardi of ESPN has split the difference between the two computers. Though he’s giving the Wolfpack a bit more respect than the polls because NC State is unranked this week...while a #6 seed would suggest they were one of the best 24 teams in the nation. Even though there’s a lot of basketball left to be played, we can’t emphasize enough how important this game is to perceptions of NC State at the national level. Duke is going to be a #1 or #2 seed barring a late collapse (and they’ll have a chip on their shoulder after losing to Lehigh last year!). NC State can’t rest on its laurels.

POMEROY’S ADJUSTED OFFENSE RANKINGS

NC State: #8

Duke: #6

Two great offenses here…though we’ll temper that a bit by pointing out again that Duke gets perks at home that don’t show up on the road or at neutral sites. Of course, this game IS at home, so you’re likely to see Duke at its best offensively. They’ll probably shoot better than the 6 of 20 on treys you saw in Raleigh. They’ll probably draw whistles in borderline situations. Given those high rankings, this should be a very entertaining game to watch.

POMEROY’S ADJUSTED DEFENSE RANKINGS

NC State: #141

Duke: #12

This is at the heart of NC State’s inconsistency. Their defense is pretty soft. So, if the offense is hitting shots, then the team is going to win. If the offense goes into a dry spell, it gets ugly quick because the defense doesn’t do much to get in the way of what the other team is doing. This is obviously a BIG deal at Cameron Indoor. Duke is already loaded for bear in revenge mode. Can State stop the steamroller with THAT defense?

POMEROY’S ADJUSTED TEMPO RANKINGS

NC State: #63

Duke: #70

Whoa…TRACK MEET! The first game landed on 160 points, and Duke didn’t shoot very well. This game could really be off to the races. Handicappers should think about the Over, or maybe Duke over its team total given their motivation, their home cooking, their preferred tempo, and the fact that State’s defense may be overmatched.

BEST EXPECTATION

We would expect to see a high energy salvo from Duke in the opening minutes. They’ll go for the jugular and the Cameron Crazies will smell blood. The ultimate pointspread winner will be determined by how NC State weathers that storm. The Wolfpack can climb out of a small hole. Climbing out of a deep hole at that site will be tough. Handicappers should not forget though that State does have some nice personnel matchups chess-wise. The Wolfpack won every stat category in the first meeting. You don’t do that without physical advantages.

NC State/Duke may or may not make the final cut for JIM HURLEY’S Thursday slate. NETWORK is also looking at #1 Indiana at Illinois, Colorado at #19 Oregon, and how about Belmont at Murray State in a big game matching Cinderella candidates? The NBA features a great doubleheader on TNT matching the LA Lakers at Boston and Chicago at Denver.

You can always purchase the best bets on the daily board right here at the website. If you have any questions, call us in the office at 1-800-323-4453. This is a great time to lock in at value rates for hoops through March Madness.

Back with you Friday with more basketball coverage. Saturday’s college hoops schedule is LOADED, so we’ll likely devote both Friday and Saturday editions of the NOTEBOOK to marquee matchups that will help sports bettors find BIG, JUICY WINNERS while scouting the postseason tournaments. Make sure you’re with us EVERY DAY so you know what’s really happening in college hoops!

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