On Saturday that could all change when No. 1 Blue Devils heads to Raleigh and the PNC Bank Arena (or whatever it is called this week) to take on No. 20 Wolfpack. NC State came into the season with a lot of hype and expectations and were in fact preseason favorites to win the ACC and ranked higher than Duke in the national polls.
So far, it has been clear that the Blue Devils have been the best team in the ACC starting out 15-0 (2-0 ACC). The Wolfpack have had a good start at 12-2 (1-0 ACC) but hardly have the resume that Duke does with wins over highly ranked teams. To date, NC State has no wins over ranked opponents.
But the game on Saturday will be billed as a rivalry game but that is only in name only. The two schools that are roughly 20 miles apart from one another once shared a three-way rivalry with North Carolina, but it has been the 1980s since the Wolf Pack have been a relevant and consistent contender in the ACC.
Duke has dominated the series between these two teams with NC State picking up the occassional win here and there. Since conference expansion, the two schools that always played each other twice a year in the normal round robin have only been squaring off one time.
Rivalries are made by the fans and helped by both the frequency in which the games are played and the success of both teams. Again, NC State has stolen a couple over the years, but not nearly enough to constitute this as a true rivalry game. In a way it has just been another game for Duke.
All of that stands to start changing on Saturday. NC State’s second-year coach Mark Gottfried has recruited a dandy of a freshman class and mixed it with a talented veteran group. It is still a team that is relatively inconsistent and unproven, but they have the talent to beat anyone if they play well.
One game and one win does not a rivalry make, but if the Wolfpack do beat Duke on Saturday that would go a long ways in establishing NC State as a team to be reckoned with in the conference. And unlike recent years, the loser of the game will be given a rematch later this season since this is the year the two schools will finally play each other twice.
The game clearly has meant more to State fans who have been clamouring for a way to get back into the ACC discussion. Duke fans look at this game as just another game. There is certainly an aspect to it that is more intriguing given the skill that the Wolfpack brings this season, but there is still not the level of anticipation for this game as there is for North Carolina and until NC State wins a few more consistently in the series there won’t be.