Devils Ready To Strike: Duke Our NCAA Basketball Pick vs. NC State

Doug Upstone

Saturday, January 23, 2016 2:32 PM GMT

These are uneasy times for Duke basketball coming off a championship season. Having lost three in a row and coach Mike Krzyzewski being called "bad sport", not fun right now.

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NCAA Basketball Pick: Duke -5
Best Line Offered: at Pinnacle

 

Having lost a trio of ACC games is bad enough, but each loss was to an unranked team and the last time that occurred was 1968-69, when Krzyzewski was wrapping up his basketball playing days at West Point.

The last two defeats were in Durham and now they make the trip to Raleigh to take on N.C. State, who pulled an upset at Pittsburgh as +9.5 point underdogs, 78-61 for their first conference win.

When look at the NCAA basketball odds with Duke a five-point favorite, what should be looking at for this clash at 2:00PM Eastern?

 

Duke Being Hurt by Lack of Depth
During this highly unusual period of Duke basketball (14-5, 8-9-1 ATS), we have all heard about the importance of Amile Jefferson makes. The senior is a big man in the paint on defense at 6'9 who can help prevent opposing teams from driving down the lane without fear and is a contributing scorer. Nonetheless, what is not being talked about is the other players.

For the first time in years, Duke does not have at least player in the backcourt who is a defensive stopper and while freshmen Brandon Ingram (16.6 points per game) and Luke Kennard (12.3 PPG) are the Blue Devils second and fourth leading scorers respectively, they disappear in games, which happens to first-year players no matter how talented. The one-and-done philosophy seems to have caught up with Coach K this season, needing eight or nine players who can add something to Duke. Maybe they have enough to win at N.C. State, but they will all seven players seeing regular minutes to do so.

 

N.C. State Has to Play Smart and Aggressively
Coach Mike Gottfried said that the upset of Pitt could be the turning point for the Wolfpack's season (11-8, 7-9 ATS). Gottfried had stressed their 0-5 start in the ACC was about doing the little things which could determine games, as N.C. State dropped the first four by 20 total points before 12-digit setback at North Carolina.

In truth, the Wolfpack do not have much wiggle room in trying to win and really need the conference's leading scorer Anthony Barber (22.3) to fill the bucket, hand out assists and grab rebounds. The 6'2 junior can be unstoppable, but when he becomes frustrated, he can take himself out of games mentally which hurts his team. Sophomore forward Abdul Malik-Abu (11.9) is more reliable game to game and is their leading rebounder at 8.9 a contest.

Barber can expect to see to Duke to use a combination of defenses like last year, including a 3/4 court press and 1-3-1 zone, to prevent his dribble penetration and how positive he stays and involves the rest of his teammates will shape the outcome.

 

What Bettors Need to Know
This is Duke's fourth true road game and they are 2-1 SU and ATS, however, in all games away from Durham they are 2-4 against the spread. Having played three days in six days did not help, so being off since Monday with the extra practice time should matter for the Blue Devils and they are 5-2 and 4-3 ATS with three or more days between games, winning by 19 PPG.

N.C. State will try and build off their initial conference and knows they have a vulnerable opponent, who if they can jump on quickly, they could erode what little confidence they have. The Wolfpack is only 7-4 at home (3-5 ATS) and has lost both times as a home underdog (1-1 ATS). Winning has not been the elixir to better spread results being 3-5 ATS off a SU winner.

 

What to Expect and Spread Winner
The Blue Devils were really bothered to Syracuse zone and shot only 37.1%. With this much time between games and the challenge of playing on the road, look for Duke's focus to be much sharper on both ends of the floor, with a real emphasis on the guards helping out to rebound more, which should mean more possessions.

Cannot overlook N.C. State is 3-1 SU and ATS in Raleigh since 2010 in this conflict, but they were catching the Dukies in a positive situation, not a negative one like today. For NCAA basketball picks, acknowledge Gottfried's clubs are fine underdogs (23-11 ATS), but if Duke tightens up a couple areas, they should be win and are 8-0 ATS away after five straight games committing 14 or fewer turnovers.