Duke vs. NC State Best Bet and Prediction for Thursday, March 14

Bettors should hone in on one key trend for tonight's matchup
Sean Stewart had three blocks and two steals in a win over NC State earlier this month
Sean Stewart had three blocks and two steals in a win over NC State earlier this month / Jaylynn Nash-USA TODAY Sports

The No. 2 Duke Blue Devils square off with the No. 10 NC State Wolfpack in the quarterfinals of the ACC Tournament on Thursday at 7:00 PM EST.

NC State lost four straight games to close the regular season but defeated Louisville and Syracuse in consecutive rounds to reach the quarterfinals, while Duke had a bye to this point but fell to North Carolina at home in the final game of the year. The Blue Devils swept the Wolfpack this year and are 5-1 in the last six meetings between these squads.

Accordingly, Duke finds itself a double-digit favorite today as the program hopes to secure a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament. With a strong showing, they'll be in great shape to avenge their loss to the Tar Heels, potentially in the ACC Tournament Finals.

Let's take a look at the odds for the matchup before jumping into my best bet and preview.

Duke vs. NC State Odds, Spread and Total

Duke vs. NC State Best Bet and Prediction

Duke is a 10.5-point favorite with massive -670 odds on the moneyline and a total set at 148.5. NC State leading scorer DJ Horne returned from injury to put up an efficient 16 points off the bench against Syracuse, though the Wolfpack may have tired legs playing three games in three days.

Three straight matchups between these teams have gone under the total and I expect a similar result tonight, due in large part to that grueling schedule. Both teams protect the ball well, with Duke ranking 27th in turnover percentage (14.4%) and NC State 10th (13.8%) and neither is in the top 100 in tempo. Thus, we should see a methodical game with limited points in transition that drains the clock and prevents the possessions necessary to get to 149 or more points.

They both prefer to work the ball inside as well. The Blue Devils are 175th in three-point shooting rate (37.6%) and the Wolfpack are 272nd (33.9%). If you don't score in transition and you don't shoot three-pointers much, you'll need to get to the free throw line to run the score up. Well, Duke is 137th in free throw rate (34.2%) and NC State is 200th (32.1%).

When these teams played 10 days ago, Sean Stewart had three blocks and two steals in a 15-point victory that easily went under the total. Provided he stays out of foul trouble, he can dominate this contest defensively once again and force the Wolfpack to score from outside, which they've struggled to do all year long (141st in three-point shooting percentage).

Duke's defense turned it up a notch of late and unders have cashed at a high rate as a result. The under is 10-3 in the Blue Devils' last 13 games - trust that number to improve to 11-3 in this quarterfinal matchup.

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Odds refresh periodically and are subject to change.