Greensboro, NC (SportsNetwork.com) - The second-ranked and second-seeded Duke Blue Devils begin their quest for postseason glory on Thursday evening, as the take on the NC State Wolfpack in quarterfinal action of the ACC Tournament from the Greensboro Coliseum
The winner of this game will take on either Miami-Florida or Notre Dame in Friday's semifinals.
Mike Krzyzewski's Blue Devils closed out the regular season with 11 straight victories, but couldn't close the gap on Virginia (16-2), which won its second straight regular-season crown, edging out Duke (15-3) by one game. Duke is the winningest team in this event, with 19 tournament titles and a 93-42 tournament record.
Mark Gottfried's Wolfpack earned the No. 7 seed this season. The Wolfpack came on strong late, with wins in five of their last six regular-season games and opened postseason play with Wednesday's 81-70 victory over Pittsburgh. The Wolfpack have a winning record in this event at 70-51 and have amassed 10 tournament titles. However, the last one came in 1987.
These two rivals met just once this season. NC State handed Duke its first loss of the season, posting an 87-75 victory in Raleigh back on Jan. 11.
Alabama transfer Trevor Lacey made an immediate impact for NC State this season, emerging as one of the conference's top playmakers. He finished the regular season ranked sixth in the conference in scoring (16.1 ppg), thanks to an impressive .407 shooting from long range. Lacey was named to the All-ACC Second-Team as a result. Fellow guards Ralston Turner (13. 4 ppg) and Anthony Barber (11.8 ppg) added scoring depth this season.
Barber and Lacey were unstoppable in Wednesday's matchup with Pittsburgh, combining for 55 points in the win. Barber hit 9-of-13 shots from the floor with four 3-pointers and went 12-of-12 from the free-throw line to finish with 34 points. Lacey went 8-of-14 and poured in 21 points for NC State, which shot .531 from the floor.
The Blue Devils certainly have the roster to add to those numbers, starting with ACC Player of the Year Jahlil Okafor (17.6 ppg, 9.2 rpg). Other Blue Devils that received All-ACC honors are veteran guard Quinn Cook (second team) and freshmen Tyus Jones (third team) and Justise Winslow (honorable mention). Quinn is a perfect complement to Okafor's interior dominance, thanks to his stellar perimeter game as he pours in 16.0 ppg, thanks in large part to his 88 3-pointers and .404 efficiency from behind the arc. Winslow is an athletic wing that puts up 12.4 ppg, while Jones is both a scorer (11.8 ppg) and deft distributor (5.7 apg).
Duke has to be one of the favorites to win the national championship, not just the ACC title. The Blue Devils are among the nation's best in terms of scoring and field-goal percentage, averaging 81.3 ppg on .502 shooting (third nationally in both categories).