What is happening on Tobacco Road this season? The ACC has definitely been turned upside down with Duke, NC State and North Carolina all struggling in conference play as new members Syracuse and Pittsburgh are at the top of the standings. Last Saturday, the Blue Devils, Wolfpack and Tar Heels all lost on the same day for first time in 18 years. That is guaranteed not to happen this Saturday because NC State visits No. 23 Duke, with the Blue Devils opening as 14-point favorites on NCAA basketball odds.
More Disappointment for NCSU?
Last season with a terrific freshman class, NC State was the preseason ACC favorite for the first time since the 1974-75 season and ranked No. 6 in the opening AP poll. The Wolfpack underachieved by finishing 11-7 in conference play, tied for fourth and four games behind surprise regular-season champion Miami (Fla.). NC State also disappointed in the NCAA Tournament, losing its opening game as a No. 9 seed to No. 8 Temple.
While expectations weren't as high this year, it's been another disappointment so far in Raleigh. NC State (6-7-1 ATS, 4-9 O/U at sportsbooks) didn't have a quality non-conference win -- including a shocking home loss to North Carolina Central -- and has started 1-3 in ACC play. In conference, the Wolfpack lost 74-62 at home to Pittsburgh, 76-45 at home to Virginia and on Wednesday fell 70-69 at Wake Forest as the Demon Deacons' Codi Miller-McIntyre hit a runner with 4.9 seconds left. The Wolfpack couldn't get off a desperation shot at the buzzer when Miller-McIntyre missed a free throw after the bucket.
The Wolfpack won the rebounding battle easily (outscoring Wake 23-4 in second-chance points) but shot just 41.8 percent from the field and 2-for-13 from long range against the Deacons. Star T.J. Warren had 22 points before fouling out with just under three minutes left, but the rest of the starting five had only 29. Warren leads the ACC in scoring at 22.2 per game. He was held to a season-low four in the loss to Virginia.
Welcome To ACC Jabari
A 1-3 start would be cause for panic at No. 23 Duke, and the Blue Devils (9-8 ATS, 7-9 O/U at sportsbooks) are fortunate they don't have that record. They bounced back from a surprising 72-59 loss at Clemson on Jan. 11 with a 69-65 home win over Virginia on Monday. Struggling sophomore Rasheed Sulaimon got a lucky bounce on a go-ahead 3-pointer with 18.8 seconds remaining as Duke played a game with its lowest ranking in seven years. Virginia rallied from an 11-point deficit with about 3 1/2 minutes left and took the lead on two free throws at 65-64 before Sulaimon's shot. Cavs star Joe Harris missed a layup with 10 seconds left before Duke iced it with two free throws to win its 25th straight game at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
Jabari Parker looked like perhaps the best freshman in the country in non-conference play but is struggling in a big way in the four ACC games, shooting 14-for-46 from the field and averaging just 10.5 points. He's generally settling for jumpers and not getting to the free-throw line much. Sulaimon was one of the top freshmen last season but his scoring is down from 11.6 to 8.1 points and he's playing significantly fewer minutes because of it. He did have a season-high 21 against Virginia.
The Blue Devils and Wolfpack split last season. Duke was No. 1 in the nation and 15-0 when it visited Raleigh as a 1-point favorite on NCAA basketball odds and was upset 84-76. When NC State visited Durham a few weeks later, Duke was a 12-point favorite at sportsbooks and rolled 98-85. NC State hasn't won at Cameron since 1995.Free pick: NC State +14 for our NCAA basketball pick, even though the Wolfpack don't like Saturday games, covering just three of their past 15 on the day.