Badass Courtney, Activate!
After hanging tough with Clemson in Littlejohn for 30 minutes, then struggling at home against FSU and Georgia Tech, State faces its first true heavy-hitter on the conference schedule: Duke, in Cameron Indoor Stadium.
Duke is back to its perennial top-five form the way they've always done it under K--tough, smothering, borderline illegal clutch-n-grab defense. They're ranked second nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency over at kenpom.com, allowing just 82.3 points/100 possessions. Pretty nasty.
You can play great defense and still be an average team...Duke mates a tremendous offense--ranked 12th by Pomeroy--with their fantastic defense. Duke expects to score 116.8 points/100 possessions--meaning Duke projects to outscore their opponents by about 23 points a game (assuming 67 possessions per game). Downright filthy.
Sophomore Kyle Singler has blossomed into the all-everything he was made out to be coming out of high school. He's consistently chipping in 16.8 points, 8.4 boards and 3.1 assists per game. Gerald Henderson and Jon Scheyer are second and third in scoring, respectively, on the Blue Devils roster, adding 14.0 and 13.8 points per game.
Any way you slice it, there's little hope for victory over in Cameron. Pomeroy gives us all of a 2% shot at pulling it off, and the pessimist in me says that's being generous.
Then again, Michigan--a pretty average team--was able to knock off the Blue Devils in Ann Arbor back in early December. So if even by only the slimmest of chances, victory can be had if everything--and I do mean EVERYTHING--falls the Wolfpack's way.
Julius Mays and Farnold Degand will have to play the games of their lives if State's to have a shot. The number of turnovers the Pack has been averaging will have to be cut in half, if not by more. Giving Duke easy points in transition will doom State.
If State and Duke played this game 100 times, State might win enough to count on two hands, barely. That there's a chance of pulling off a major upset is why you play them and hope for the best.