Preview & Prediction: By Jeff Borzello
The ACC is on top of the college basketball world right now, with the top two teams in the country residing in the conference, as Wake Forest is No. 1 and Duke is No. 2. Throw in one-loss Clemson and everyone’s favorite, North Carolina, and the ACC can make a run at the Big East. Duke will try to keep its spot in the polls tonight as the #2 Blue Devils (16-1, 3-0) take on North Carolina State (10-5, 1-2) in a Tobacco Road battle. Duke is coming off of a nice win over Georgetown at home, adding to a great resume that includes victories over Purdue, Xavier, Davidson, Michigan and Florida State. The lone loss came at the hands of Michigan. North Carolina State had lost three in a row before defeating Georgia Tech over the weekend. The Wolfpack have been competitive against the top teams they have played (Davidson, Marquette, Florida), but they have not been able to get over the hump for a victory.
Duke is a deep and versatile team that can throw a variety of looks and options at opponents. They are led by Kyle Singler (16.8 ppg), one of the best players in the country. Gerald Henderson (double digits 9 games in a row) and Jon Scheyer are great on the wings, while Nolan Smith has added a new dimension at the point. Brian Zoubek and Lance Thomas are serviceable down low. Greg Paulus has adapted very well to his new role as the back-up point guard to Smith.
North Carolina State is paced by the frontcourt duo of Brandon Costner and Ben McCauley, two players who have regained their form of two seasons ago after falling off last year. Together, they combine for almost 28 ppg. Courtney Fells is solid on the wing, while Trevor Ferguson can do a little of everything. Farnold Degand handles the point. Dennis Horner and Tracy Smith are versatile forwards, and Julius Mays and Javier Gonzalez are backups in the backcourt.
On paper, this looks like a mismatch. Duke is playing some of the best basketball in the country, while North Carolina State is struggling for the most part. However, the Wolfpack have played well against their top opponents this season and do have the frontcourt talent to give the Blue Devils a run. Duke just has way too much on the perimeter for NC State to realistically stay in the game, though. The individual match-up of Singler vs. Costner should be worth watching. Both players are inside-outside forwards who can create match-up problems.
PREDICTION: DUKE MARGIN: 14-16
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About Jeff Borzello
National College Basketball
Jeff Borzello is a freelance writer who also runs and writes his own blog, March Madness All Season. During the season, Jeff has a weekly appearance on ESPN Radio 1300 in Baltimore and has appeared on AOL Sports Radio and CFRC Sports.. He constantly outdoes the "experts" in his projected brackets and also provides analysis and insight on every conference and team in the country. His favorite teams are Connecticut and Hofstra, showing love to both majors and mid-majors at the same time--indicative of his columns. Jeff is originally from Long Island, NY.