North Carolina in a landslide... Nobody is going to challenge the Heels this weekend, it would be a surprise to see them lose a point in either match.
The Duke vs. Middle Tennessee match however has some interesting storylines, mostly on the Duke side. The Blue Devils enter the season very short-handed after a series of unfortunate events for the team. Last year's #1 Nico Alvarez is gone as he decided to take his skills to the pro circuit, Ryan Dickerson is out for the year as a medical red-shirt and Robert Maciag who was a talented incoming freshman is no longer with the team. With all that the team was able to convince Catalin Mateas to rejoin them but he is far from match ready and has not looked that good since his return. All that being said the Blue Devils came out of the gate strong posting a home win against then #24 Arizona State after falling behind 3-0 and winning the final four matches. They then proceeded to go on the road to Kentucky and take a thumping from the Wildcats, a team that should be rebuilding this year. That was a very disappointing loss for sure. Duke has submitted Jason Lapidus at 5 in what I could consider a mini stack and they may play it that way but I think there is a good likelihood that they pull him to play Levine at 5 and Vincent Lin at 6. Middle Tennessee comes into the year having been the likely first team out of last year's NCAA Tournament and very hungry. The Blue Raiders don't get the opportunity to play many power conference teams to earn valuable points toward their ranking in trying to make the tournament (they do have Tennessee, Vandy, IU, Oregon, Arizona this year) so a win over Duke could be huge. I think the Blue Raiders will put up a good fight and probably get a win at 4 and then maybe another in dubs or at 2 but I think the short-handed Blue Devils still prevail. If you listened to the Great Shot Podcast that was just released where we previewed the ITA kickoff you heard me say that there is a better chance that Middle Tennessee beats Duke than there is that Duke beats North Carolina so don't sleep on the Blue Raiders. I won't be terribly surprised if they pull off the upset.
Predictions:Duke 4, Middle Tennessee 2