Abridged Game Preview

Duke Blue Devils [22-9, 11-7] vs. NC State Wolfpack [16-16, 5-13]

Wednesday, March 9, 2016 • 2:30 PM • ACC Network/ESPN • Washington, DC • Verizon Center

By Randy Dunson [Note: Please direct comments, suggestions, etc. to @RandyDunson.]


Duel in DC: Cat Barber vs. Grayson Allen

Anthony ”Cat” Barber and Grayson Allen are set for one final duel between ACC scoring leaders.

The explosive guards from North Carolina State and No. 19 Duke figure to be part of an entertaining affair Wednesday in a conference tournament second-round matchup in Washington D.C.

Barber averaged 23.4 points in the regular season and Allen 21.5 as the only players in the conference to top 20. While the 6-foot-2 Barber was known more for his driving ability as he finished the regular season as one of the nation’s leaders with 261 free throw attempts, the 6-5 Allen is the better 3-point shooter at 42.3 percent with a reputation as one of college basketball’s best dunkers.

Allen was not always so proficient from long range, connecting at 34.6 percent on 3-pointers last season as a freshman when he averaged 4.4 points. He and Clemson’s Jaron Blossomgame tied in coaches’ voting for the conference’s most improved player.

Previous Meetings

Duke (22-9) took both matchups this season over North Carolina State, ending its season-worst three-game slide by rallying from seven down at halftime for an 88-78 road victory Jan. 23. Allen scored 28 points and Barber had 19.

The teams met two weeks later in Durham and the Blue Devils won 88-80, as Allen outscored Barber 28-26.

Barber is looking forward to a rematch after helping the Wolfpack (16-16) advance past Wake Forest 75-72 on Tuesday. He started 2 of 11 from the field before making five of his final 10 shots for 22 points.

“It’s great to play Duke again,” Barber said. “We’re looking forward to it. We’re going to come out tomorrow and try to get this win.”

Team Comparisons

Freshman Maverick Rowan made a season-high six 3-pointers and scored 24 points. Rowan credited Barber for setting screens to get him open, and Barber returned the compliments. Rowan went 5 of 16 from beyond the arc in the two losses to the Blue Devils.

Duke is second in the ACC in 3-point shooting at 38.9 percent. The Blue Devils shot 45.3 percent on 3-pointers against the Wolfpack with 50 free-throw attempts.

These teams ranked third and fourth in the ACC regular season in average foul shot attempts with 24.1 for Duke and 24.0 for N.C. State.

The Blue Devils also feature ACC freshman of the year Brandon Ingram, who is second on the team in scoring with 16.7 points per game and rebounding at 6.8. He has had to step up with senior forward Amile Jefferson out for the season with a foot injury.

Duke lost 76-72 at home to then-No. 8 North Carolina on Saturday to cap a three-game stretch in which it shot 37.1 percent. The Blue Devils were outrebounded 64-29.

The winner will face Notre Dame in Thursday’s quarterfinals.

Offensive Four Factors

Duke eFG% TO% OR% FT Rate

2015-16 Overall (National Rank) 53.8 (33) 14.6 (9) 33.7 (50) 40.6 (78)

2015-16 ACC Only (Conference Rank) 53.5 (2) 15.4 (2) 29.4 (11) 37.7 (3)

State eFG% TO% OR% FT Rate

2015-16 Overall (National Rank) 48.0 (251) 16.3 (58) 36.5 (22) 39.6 (97)

2015-16 ACC Only (Conference Rank) 48.6 (11) 17.0 (8) 35.8 (3) 36.3 (4)

When comparing offensive factors for these two teams, it is readily apparent that Duke has a decided edge in each with the exception of offensive rebounding. Nationally, Duke ranks 50th at 33.7 & State ranks 22nd at 36.5. When looking only at conference play, Duke ranks 11th at 29.4 & State ranks 3rd at 35.8, a significant difference.

Game Notables

  • Duke announced over the weekend that F Amile Jefferson (foot), who has been out since early December, would miss the rest of the season
  • The Wolfpack are 21-11 in March under coach Mark Gottfried over the last five years, including five NCAA Tournament wins and eight in the ACC tournament
  • Kennard leads the ACC in free-throw shooting percentage (89.4) – third-best in team history by a freshman

Keys to Watch For

  1. Stealing minutes and creative substituting
    Being able to steal minutes to rest for Marshall Plumlee, Grayson Allen & Brandon Ingram will be important. With a bench this short its crucial to manage minutes.
  2. Rebounding
    After getting destroyed by UNC on the boards if Duke can contain and box out or at least attempt to box out, it could lead to second chance points and take some stress off of Duke mentally and physically. Duke will have to work much harder and will have a much more difficult time maintaining a lead or making a comeback if they do not rebound at least at a decent clip.
  3. Not letting the Cat purrrrr
    Containing Cat Barber is crucial, making him into a pass first point guard could play into Duke’s hands. Keeping the Pack out of transition is also important. Duke has not been at its best in transition defense but when they can set up they are much more effective.
  4. Points in the Paint
    Everybody knows Duke is looking to shoot the ball from beyond the arc, its one of the few stats that Duke generally wins and it is a great equalizer for a team that is generally not a strong rebounding team. Tires legs may fall in love with the jumpshot but in order for Duke to be at its most effective they need to drive the ball and get to the free throw line.



I decided to do something a bit quirky in predicting the outcome of this game by looking at statistical odds maker trends.

The over is 10-3 in the Wolfpack’s last 13 overall, 19-7-1 in their last 27 against winning opponents, 7-2 in their last nine against opponents with winning percentages over .600, and 4-1 in their last five at neutral sites. It is also 19-7-1 in the last 27 head-to-head meetings. Neither team had any trouble scoring in the previous head-to-head contests. Allen certainly had no problem torching the Wolfpack in a pair of Duke victories. Barber and Rowan are in fine form for N.C. State, but it remains to be seen if the underdogs can contain the Blue Devil offense. This one should go over the total.

What this comes down to is a Duke win. As for the final score, it will be 85-75.

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