3 Thrilling Observations from Duke's Critical Win Over NC State

One major development should have Blue Devils fans fired up

Sean Stewart had two steals and three blocks in Duke's win against NC State
Sean Stewart had two steals and three blocks in Duke's win against NC State / Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports
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The stage is officially set for one of the best rivalry games in all of sports. After topping NC State 79-64 on Monday, Duke will now host the North Carolina Tar Heels on Saturday at 6:30 PM for at least a share of the ACC title.

Duke could win the conference outright if the Tar Heels fall to Notre Dame Tuesday night, though they're heavy favorites against a bottom-feeder in the conference. At the very least, it'll be the first time since 2012 that the rivals will meet with a share of the ACC Championship on the line.

College basketball doesn't get any better than this. Before we turn to the weekend, let's look at three major observations from the Blue Devils' 15-point win against the Wolfpack.

3 Observations from Duke's Win Over NC State

1. Duke's Defense is Surging

We know that Duke's offense can score with anyone, but the defense was a consistent issue throughout the season. On the year, the Blue Devils rank 78th in opponent effective field goal percentage (48.7%) and 174th in defensive turnover percentage (17%), well below most of the other true NCAA Tournament contenders in both categories.

They were impressive against NC State though, holding the Wolfpack to 64 points while generating 10 turnovers. That's critical given NC State ranks 11th in turnover percentage (13.8%), so it's difficult to force that offense to cough up the ball.

Five different Blue Devils snagged a steal, with freshman Sean Stewart notching a pair alongside three blocks in perhaps his best defensive game of the year.

Duke is 120th in opponent two-point shooting percentage (49.1%), as Kyle Filipowski and Mark Mitchell aren't dominating defensive presences down low.

If Stewart's emergence is a sign of things to come, it completely changes the Blue Devils' ceiling. Having a force in the paint makes it difficult for opponents to drive the lane, and it's no surprise that Duke is up to 41st in opponent effective field goal percentage (47%) since the start of February.

Keep your eye on Stewart, as he could be the key moving forward.