Instead of a battle between coaches Jim Boeheim and Mike Krzyzewski, fans and college basketball bettors are going to have to be satisfied with a good old-fashioned Tobacco Road collision. Duke survived its quarterfinal matchup with Clemson, but Syracuse did not enjoy the same fate vs. the North Carolina State Wolfpack.
The Blue Devils and Wolfpack are expected to tip their second matchup of the year around 3:30 PM (ET). ESPN provides the telecast from Greensboro, as well as the hype that goes with any Duke broadcast.
Numbers from the sports books are still forthcoming, so keep and eye on SBR's live NCAA basketball odds for that. My projections are also forthcoming.
Duke and NC State met only once this season, and that was nearly two months ago in Durham. Favored by 13 at home with 146 for the closing total, the Blue Devils coasted to a 95-60 decision in one of their best all-around performances of the season. The result was Duke's 2nd-straight win and cover in the series, and the 4th-straight 'over' to give high-side bettors the cash in nine of the last 11 meetings.
Gottfried's Got Wolfpack Rolling Into Semis
North Carolina State (21-12 straight up, 18-12 against the spread) came into this tourney as the seventh seed in the ACC and looking at a trip to the NIT. But after taking down both Miami and Syracuse, Mike Gottfried's guys are now at least back in the discussion to make their third consecutive appearance in the NCAA Tournament.
That would be assured if the Wolfpack can upset Duke today. And with two more wins, the 'Pack can pull off their first ACC Tournament title since 1987 when Jim Valvano was still at the helm in Raleigh. Not bad for a team that was a 50/1 shot to win the conference last October.
Friday's triumph vs. Syracuse helped the Wolfpack gain a little measure of revenge for a near-miss against the Orange a month ago. Syracuse was still unbeaten and No. 1 in the country Feb. 15 when NC State visited the Carrier Dome as a 13.5 point underdog, coming up just short of the upset in a 56-55 loss.
Oddsmakers were giving the 'Pack 9 points on Friday at the same time Syracuse was watching ACC Player of the Year TJ Warren pour in 28 points to lead North Carolina State to a 66-63 win. It marked the fourth straight win for the Wolfpack and their backers, and the final just skipped past the 128 mark for the eighth straight 'over.'
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Blue Devils Survive Clemson Scare
Duke (25-7 SU, 19-13 ATS) almost found itself in the same position as Syracuse, but managed to escape the quarterfinals with a 63-62 decision vs. Clemson. The 3rd-seeded Blue Devils built a comfortable lead in the second half of the matchup, but then let it evaporate and needed a final defensive play from Tyler Thornton to keep the Tigers from pulling off the upset as 9.5 point underdogs.
As usual, there was a lot of grumbling about Coach K's crew getting help from the referees after the game, from both the Clemson sidelines and the Duke haters of the world. But replays showed it was a clean effort by Thornton, and that means those same Duke haters get to enjoy their seething and crying at least one more day.
The Blue Devils will once again be giving up 9-10 points on Saturday, and if they can't play better defense than what they showed Friday, NC State should have a shot at least at the cover. I'm expecting a total in the 139-142 range, and lean to the 'over' if that holds true. The points and the 'Pack will be my free NCAA basketball pick.
My pick: NC State plus points
Season: 55-41-1 (+9.9)