How ACC rivals Duke and NC State are preparing for their Elite Eight game


DALLAS — The Duke Blue Devils and NC State Wolfpack did all of their normal preparation for Sunday’s Elite Eight matchup in the South Region in terms of video study and game planning.

Each team probably could have settled for a lot less work. With both being in the ACC, the teams have played two games against one another in March. The campuses are separated by only 25 miles, so the Blue Devils and Wolfpack are about as familiar with one another as two teams can be.

“It’s not like there are a lot of secrets out there between either one of us,” Duke coach Jon Scheyer said on Saturday. “I think it’s pretty clear both ways.

“We’ve always had big-time games against them, very competitive. They’ve had their style of play. So have we. It’s going to be a big-time battle regardless of whether it’s in the NCAA tournament, ACC tournament, regular-season game. There’s always a lot at stake and this is no exception.”

Each team won one of the two earlier games. Duke won 79-64 at NC State on March 4. NC State returned the favor with a 74-69 victory at the ACC tournament in Washington D.C., two weeks ago.

Scheyer said NC State, winner of eight straight games, is better defensively and a better rebounding team than it was earlier in the season. He said the biggest change in the Wolfpack is that it is now a confident group that expects to win every game.

NC State is at times buried by the proximity and success of not only Duke but the North Carolina Tar Heels. Until the Wolfpack started their eight-game winning streak, this season was a case in point. The Tar Heels were the No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament’s West Region. Duke was ranked all season.

NC State needed to win five ACC tournament games in five days to get into the NCAA tournament.

“You have to carve out your own space,” Wolfpack coach Kevin Keatts said. “I never wanted to be compared to Duke or Carolina. It’s just not who I am. We do things a little bit differently.

“We’ve done a good job. We’re champions … and we have an opportunity to win another championship and another tournament.”

Given the expectations of the respective teams heading into the NCAA tournament — Duke a 4-seed, NC State an 11-seed — it’s easy to conclude all the pressure is on the Blue Devils in the Elite Eight game.

But Duke, with its roster regularly stocked with top recruits, can reasonably expect to make a deep tournament run again next season. NC State hasn’t been to the Elite Eight since 1986.

So this may be a once-in-a-generation chance for the Wolfpack.

“We don’t look at it as [playing with] house money,” Keatts said. “We do think we have something to lose. I understand that’s how it looks when you come in as an 11-seed [but] these guys are here to win.”

Here’s a closer look at the two earlier games between Duke and NC State.

March 4 at NC State: Duke 79, NC State 64
Duke led 33-30 at halftime but broke the game open in the second half. DJ Burns Jr. led all scorers with 27 points though the Blue Devils had the edge in points off turnovers (20-9) and points off the bench (17-7).

March 14 in the ACC tournament quarterfinal: NC State 74, Duke 69
The Wolfpack this time had balanced scoring, with five players recording double figures. NC State had 21 points off the bench; Duke had none. Kyle Filipowski led all scorers with 28 points.


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