The Duke Basketball team has handled the injury bug well this season but as March inches closer the Blue Devils are hoping Wednesday night will be the first of a healthy stretch to close the season.
Riding a seven-game winning streak the Duke Blue Devils will hit the road once again to face a desperate North Carolina State team.
The Wolfpack seemed in position to grab an NCAA Tournament bid but losses in four of its last six games have but that in jeopardy and Wednesday could go a long way in determining whether or not Kevin Keatts‘ team makes the Big Dance.
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On the other side, Duke is almost a guaranteed lock to play in Greensboro in the first weekend of the tournament and very likely to be placed in the East Region, which is played at Madison Square Garden if the Blue Devils were to advance to the Sweet 16 and Elite 8.
However, in order to reach those aspirations, Duke must get, and stay, healthy which could start on Wednesday night.
Players, and coaches, have been in-and-out of the lineup for the Blue Devils this season, and after playing two games, against North Carolina and Florida State, with its full complement of coaches and players, Duke had an unexpected injury on Saturday before its game against Notre Dame.
In pregame warmups, Cassius Stanley was poked in the eye and was forced to miss the game but he is expected to play his regular amount of minutes on Wednesday night against NC State.
Stanley and the rest of the Duke guards will be extremely important on the defensive end against the Wolfpack as the team has five guards who can really hurt teams on the offensive end in C.J. Bryce, Markell Johnson, Devon Daniels, and Braxton Beverly.
Those five players combine to average 45.8 points of the 74.3 points per game the Wolfpack average.
One game removed from facing ACC Player of the Year candidate John Mooney, Vernon Carey Jr. will have another big matchup on his hands in DJ Funderburk who averages 12.2 points and 5.8 rebounds per game.
Carey Jr.’s presence could play a major factor in this game as NC State has been susceptible on the interior, allowing 25 points to North Carolina’s Garrison Brooks in a ten-point home loss in late January.
With an anticipated charged up crowd and desperate team, Duke will need a complete effort, similar to what it put forth in its 34-point win over Notre Dame on Saturday.
The Blue Devils and Wolfpack will tipoff from the PNC Arena at 9:00pm EST on ESPN2.
PREDICTION: Duke 79, NC State 70