North Carolina State vs. Duke Pick NCAA Basketball – January 23rd

We moved back to 65% ATS on the college basketball season thanks to another 6-2 ATS week including last night’s straight-up underdog winner in Virginia Tech (handing Clemson their back-breaking sixth-straight loss).  Clemson’s NCAA hopes took a huge blow last night, but VA Tech’s bid to march to the Big Dance for the first time in the Buzz Peterson Era is looking pretty solid.

Elsewhere, the new polls came out today, and Villanova is the obvious #1, Kansas the obvious #2 and Gonzaga the sensible-if not-conservative #3.  From there?  Your pick is as good as mine.  I volley some personal rankings out on Twitter from time to time, but I’ll admit that Kentucky and UCLA are still in my Final Four (though Arizona’s performance in Pauley was SO impressive….)

Things are starting to get real across the country and some true contenders are separating themselves while a few new ones (Florida State, Arizona) are jockeying into #2 seed range.  There are some pivotal games coming up that will influence that picture even more this week: Virginia vs. Notre Dame and Kansas vs. West Virginia tomorrow, for starters.  But for the here and now, let’s take a look at one of the more polarizing and mercurial teams in the country, the vaunted Duke Blue Devils.

Today’s Free Pick:

North Carolina State Wolfpack at Duke Blue Devils -16

Can I really lay 16 on Duke?!?  Really? Sixteen?

Yep.  For two reasons: One, the light bulb went on in the second half of that Miami game.  They are responding to Jeff Capel and they are still one of the three most talented teams in the country.  Their freshman depth and NBA Lottery talent is settling in, Luke Kennard is a ROCK, and Grayson Allen – hate all you want – can simply light it up.  Duke is still really, really good with a “National Title” ceiling…

The second reason is oh-my-goodness NC State on the road.  Wow.  They already own a 51-point loss at North Carolina and an 18-point loss at Miami.  They even lost by 8 at Boston College.  They are 2-5 in ACC play and have home losses to Georgia Tech and Wake Forest.  I liked this team preseason and LOVE Denny Smith Jr. as a future pro.  But this team, much like Washington around Markelle Fultz, just isn’t any good.

Look for Duke to massacre them tonight.  I think the month-plus of frustration you saw let loose against Miami spills over into tonight and things get ugly early.  I HATE laying more than a dozen in a college game as a rule, but I think we could see a 25+ beat down.  I also like Duke to keep the pedal down more than usual (and fear the backdoor cover less) because they NEED court time together.  They have had injuries, suspensions and distractions all season long.  Yeah, it is a little uncouth to keep your guys in up 30, but the Dukies have loftier goals than playing nice.

Look for a romp tonight in Durham.

Free Pick:  Duke Blue Devils -16

Chris Scheeren / Author