The No. 4 Duke Blue Devils get their chance for revenge when they host the unranked North Carolina State Wolfpack on Thursday night.
Less than a month ago, Mark Gottfried's talented squad welcomed the Blue Devils into PNC Arena and swiftly handed them their first loss of the season.
Ever since that season-defining win, however, things began to snowball in the wrong direction for the Wolfpack. They lost by one at Maryland, barely knocked off Clemson at home, suffered a major upset at Wake Forest, escaped against North Carolina after a scintillating first-half performance and have now lost two straight to Virginia and Miami.
Suddenly, the preseason favorites are 5-4 in the ACC and down to fifth place, and a matchup with surging Duke probably isn't what the doctor ordered.
Let's take a look at everything you need to know about the "other" Tobacco Road battle.
When: Thursday, Feb. 7 at 9 p.m. ET
Where: Cameron Indoor Stadium, Durham, N.C.
Watch: ACC Network
Live Stream: ESPN 3
NC State Injury Report (via USA Today)
G Lorenzo Brown, Ankle, Doubtful
Duke Injury Report (via USA Today)
F Ryan Kelly, Foot, Out
F Josh Hairston, Arm, Doubtful
What They're Saying
Integral point guard Lorenzo Brown is listed as doubtful, but Mark Gottfried is still holding out hope the junior can suit up (via Laura Keeley of the Raleigh News & Observer and Charlotte Observer):
Brown can score in a hurry both from long range and in transition, but he is the engine that makes this offense (which ranks ninth in America in points per possession at 1.111) go. On the season, he's averaging an impressive 6.9 assists per game and is No. 3 in the country in assist rate, according to BBState.com.
Meanwhile, the game's other point guard, Quinn Cook, isn't quite as worried about Duke's own major injury (via The Chronicle's Duke Basketball Twitter account):
Without Ryan Kelly in the first matchup of these teams, C.J. Leslie and Richard Howell owned the inside, combining for 41 points on 16-of-28 shooting to go with 24 rebounds.
NC State Player to Watch: Rodney Purvis
The absence of Brown is obviously de trop for the Wolfpack, but they have two very capable replacements in the backcourt. One freshman doesn't have much experience; the other often played next to Brown.
The former is Tyler Lewis, who was highly recruited out of high school but has logged just 11.0 minutes per game this season. However, he is a true point guard and distributor, and against Miami on Saturday, he spent 36 minutes on the court, racking up an impressive 16 points and five assists.
But for now, we're going to concentrate on the latter: Rodney Purvis.
The 6'2", 195-pound freshman can play either guard position, but he's better suited at the 2 when someone like Brown or Lewis is in the lineup because he's more of a scorer and creator than a conductor.
Purvis can shoot. On the season, he's knocking down 41.9 percent from deep on just under three attempts per contest, and in ACC play, that number is up to 44.8 percent on 3.2 attempts per game.
Even more impressively, the youngster is quick, athletic and can get to the hoop with ease. He's a menace to stop in transition, and as he proved against Miami, boxing him out should probably be a priority:
With Brown—who had every single one of NC State's 13 assists last month against Duke(!)—likely out of the lineup, it will be up to Purvis to create.
Duke Player to Watch: Amile Jefferson
We'll stick with the replacement theme.
With Ryan Kelly and potentially Josh Hairston out, the frontcourt minutes next to Mason Plumlee will fall to Amile Jefferson and Alex Murphy.
Mostly, though, it has the been the true freshman Jefferson filling the void.
In Kelly's first missed game, Jefferson showed immense potential with 10 points, four rebounds and two blocks against the Wolfpack, but he struggled with (questionable) foul trouble and logged just 12 minutes:
Since then, he has averaged 8.2 points, 6.2 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per contest, and that includes a zero-point, three-rebound performance in just 19 minutes against Wake Forest.
Jefferson is usually referred to as a power forward because of his height (6'8"), but he is an athletic specimen capable of contributing all over the court in several different ways.
On Thursday, he'll have to avoid silly foul trouble and help slow down NC State's powerful frontcourt of high-flying C.J. Leslie and Richard "I Outwork Everyone" Howell.
Points, points and more points.
Even without Brown and Kelly, both of these squads have the ability to score as much as Joey Tribbiani.
On the Wolfpack side, Leslie can beat you in a number of different ways (dunking over you, mid-range jumper, crafty back-to-the basket game, to name a few), Howell is a force on the inside and will relentlessly crash the offensive glass, Scott Wood shoots threes like they are layups and T.J. Warren is an efficient, athletic weapon.
For the Blue Devils, Plumlee is way too athletic for a seven-footer (Um, not fair) and has a sneaky post game, Seth Curry and freshman Rasheed Sulaimon can light it up from the outside and Quinn Cook runs the show to perfection.
This one will come down to which team can control the paint and get some timely stops on the defensive end.
NC State has the advantage inside, but at Cameron, it's especially obvious that Duke (31st in the nation in points per possession allowed, third in ACC play) will get more stops than the Wolfpack (189th and eighth), who can't slow down anyone these days.
If the Wolfpack can't seriously speed up the pace to benefit their unstoppable transition game, they won't be able to stick around for the entire 40 minutes.
NC State 72, Duke 84