Undefeated Duke Hits the Road

Duke will be without forward Ryan Kelly, who injured his foot against Clemson on Tuesday, this weekend as the Blue Devils visit North Carolina State.

Unbeaten in 15 games, top-ranked Duke will face its first proper road test of the season this weekend with a trip to No. 20 North Carolina State.

Tip-off is scheduled for noon on Saturday from PNC Arena in Raleigh, N.C.

The Blue Devils have played six games at a neutral site this season: beating Kentucky at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Ga.; defeating Minnesota, Virginia Commonwealth, and Louisville in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament, held in Nassau, in the Bahamas; handing Temple its first loss, at the IZOD Center in East Rutherford, N.J.; and most recently, defeating Davidson at Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte, N.C.; but Saturday will be the first time Mike Krzyewski’s side goes into an opponent’s building this season.

Duke (15-0, 2-0 ACC) has exceeded preseason expectations climbing to the top of the AP rankings as well as oddsmakers’ lists.

Ahead of the season, the Blue Devils ranked No. 8 on the AP poll. On Dec. 17, Duke took the top spot thanks to a combination of a 9-0 record and Indiana’s unexpected loss to Butler. The Blue Devils have topped the poll ever since.

Bookmakers also had Duke at No. 8 in the preseason, giving the Durham, N.C., side odds of 20/1 to win a national championship. As of this week, the Blue Devils are joint favorites (with Indiana) to win the NCAA Tournament, at 5/1.

Coach K’s side has averaged 79.3 points per game (20th) this season, behind solid performances from the highest-scoring starting five in the country: Mason Plumlee (17.7 PPG), Seth Curry (16.0), Ryan Kelly (13.4), Quinn Cook (11.4), and Rasheed Sulaimon (11.2).

Plumlee’s 11.4 rebounds per game is the high-water mark on a team that is struggling to crash the boards. The Blue Devils rank 138th in the nation in rebounding (36.2 RPG), which is perhaps the side’s only flaw.

On Tuesday, the Blue Devils had their share of offensive woes, scoring just 68 points against Clemson. That total represented the second lowest tally for the side this season, having scored 67 twice. However, the side shut down Clemson defensively, holding the Tigers to just 40 points, a season best for the Duke defense.

Duke has recorded victories against three ranked opponents (Kentucky, Louisville, Ohio State) so far this season, and will look to add a fourth against the Wolfpack on Saturday.

North Carolina State (13-2, 2-0 ACC) entered the season ranked No. 6 by the Associated Press, but No. 3 with the bookies.

The Wolfpack descended quickly through the rankings, first after being hammered by Oklahoma State in Puerto Rico and then after falling to Michigan. After three weeks at No. 25, Mark Gottfried’s side began edging back upwards, winning eight straight and landing at No. 20 on this week’s rankings.

Those two defeats cost the Wolfpack big time in the NCAA Basketball Futures. Having opened the season with odds of 12-1 to win a national championship, North Carolina State has seen its odds fall to 28/1, 14th in the nation.

North Carolina State is the number one shooting team in college basketball, shooting .531 on the season. Forward C.J. Leslie leads the team with 15.6 points per game, while five other players average in double figures. The Wolfpack leads the ACC in scoring at 81.2 points per game, a number that’s good enough for 11th in the nation.

Like Duke, NC State has struggled rebounding the ball, averaging just 35.9 boards per game (148th). Forward Richard Howell leads the side with 9.9 rebounds per game.

These two sides met just once last season, with Duke scoring a 78-73 victory at home on Feb. 16. The Blue Devils own a 50-23 record against the Wolfpack since 1979.

North Carolina State will hope to take advantage of news that Duke forward Ryan Kelly is out indefinitely after injuring his right foot in Tuesday’s win over Clemson. Kelly has scored double-figures in 13 of 15 games this season.

No line has been released on this game yet but bettors should pay close attention to the spread. Despite an undefeated record, Duke is 9-6-0 against the spread this season, which at the very least makes for interesting betting. NC State is 7-5-1 ATS.

The total has gone over in only five of Duke’s games this season, with eight games seeing the under. NC State has seen the total go over six times compared to four unders.

Duke and North Carolina State will meet again on Feb. 7 (9:00 PM ET) from Cameron Indoor Stadium in Durham, N.C.

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