DALLAS – They know each other well. And not just because they’re located less than 30 miles apart back home in North Carolina.

Duke and NC State have played each other twice in the past 27 days, with each winning once.

Sunday’s rubber match at American Airlines Center won’t just decide which team wins the season series between the Triangle rivals. It will also determine whether the Wolfpack’s improbable postseason run will take them all the way to the Final Four or if the Blue Devils will return to college basketball’s premier event for the first time since coach Mike Krzyzewski’s retirement.

It’s a storyline Coach K’s successor Jon Scheyer called “unique.” That’s also an accurate description of the 2 games the teams have previously played.

The first meeting, on March 4 at PNC Arena, came while the Wolfpack was at its low point and the Blue Devils were trending upward.

Jeremy Roach and Jared McCain made 3 3-pointers each to offset a 27-point performance by DJ Burns to lead Duke to a convincing 79-64 win, the Blue Devils’ 8th win in a 9-game stretch. State, meanwhile, was in the throes of a slump that would see it end the regular season by losing 10 of its final 14, including the final 4 in a row.

Ten days later in the ACC Tournament quarterfinals in Washington, DC, the roles were dramatically reversed.

Duke was still reeling from a Senior Night loss to North Carolina while the Wolfpack’s 74-69 victory was their 3rd straight in a run that saw them win 5 in 5 nights to claim their first ACC Tournament crown in 37 years. That title also secured their automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

This time, both teams come in playing some of their best basketball. The 4th-seeded Blue Devils upset top-seeded Houston on Friday shortly after No. 11 State took down No. 2 Marquette.

And because of the familiarity they have with each other, there probably won’t be any surprises. Duke is a 6.5-point favorite, according to ESPN BET sportsbook.

May the better team win.

“I told my guys at the beginning of this: When it comes to March, players make plays,” Wolfpack coach Kevin Keatts said Saturday. “As coaches we pull a lot of strings, substitute guys and try to put them in great spots. But you see so many storylines of guys who are just making plays.”

Two of the most likely candidates to make those winning players are the team’s respective big men – Duke’s Kyle Filipowski and State’s DJ Burns.

One plays the role of the villain, the Dukie everybody loves to hate. The other has become a cult hero who has captured the imagination of the college basketball world with his super-sized body, nimble feet, soft hands and ever-present smile.

Even Filipowski admitted Saturday that he’s a fan of Burns. At least when he’s not going against him.

That won’t be the case Sunday. In fact, there’s a good chance their duel will end up being the deciding factor in who’s team goes to the Final Four and who’s heads home.

But not in the way you’d think.

Burns dominated the first meeting by scoring 27 points on 12-of-19 shooting and dishing out 4 assists while Filipowski, limited by early foul trouble, ended up with only 9 points and 2 rebounds.

No matter; Duke that won the game easily.

Fast forward to the rematch. Flip bounced back by going off for 28 points and 14 rebounds. And yet, it was the Wolfpack who came out on top despite Burns making only 4-of-11 shots.

Those results are probably an anomaly. Chances are, the pattern will be reversed on Sunday.

So who gets the best of whom?

Each presents a different set of difficulties for the other.

As talented and athletic as Filipowski is and as much toughness as he’s developed, he’s at a severe physical disadvantage when Burns catches the ball and begins using his heavy-duty 300-plus pound physique to start backing his man in toward the rim.

He described Burns as “one of one because of his play style and his physicality.”

“He’s obviously got a big body, but he’s very agile and he can spin on you real quick,” Duke’s star said.

“You just have to be prepared for whatever. He’s got great IQ with passing out of the post as well. He’s going to throw something at you and there are times when he’s going to make a really hard shot, even when the defense might be perfect.”

While Burns goes about his business with brute force, Filipowski has a much more varied arsenal of offensive options.

He’s tough enough to score at the rim, quick enough to put the ball and beat his man off the dribble and a good enough shooter – albeit somewhat inconsistent – to knock down a 3 when left open. He hit a game-high 3 3-pointers against Houston and has made 4 3 times already this season. He improved his 3-point percentage to 35.8 this season, too.

His agility away from the basket presents Burns with his biggest challenge.

“You could say that, if that’s how you want to look at it,” Burns said. “He has an ability to shoot, which definitely takes me out of the post.”

Because of their differences, both players will look to teammates for help in defending the other.

Filipowski will rely on Mark Mitchell to double-team Burns and help out on the glass, where the Wolfpack outscored the Blue Devils 18-8 on 2nd-chance points in their ACC Tournament win. Burns, on the other hand, will need Mohamed Diarra to use his length and quickness to switch off Filipowski when he’s out on the perimeter.

A key factor in deciding their mano-a-mano battle and perhaps the outcome will be how the game is called.

Although Filipowski’s backup Ryan Young was effective in Friday’s Sweet 16 win against Houston, Duke figures to be at a greater disadvantage if its big man gets into foul trouble. With Diarra and Ben Middlebrooks already playing significant minutes because of Burns’ lack of stamina, State is better suited to play long stretches without its top inside presence.

So who comes out on top?

A lot will depend on whose guards make more shots. But when it comes to the hand-to-hand combat down low, Burns has a prediction.

“I think one of the key things is who is more aggressive in the post,” he said.

An even bigger key will be resisting the urge to take over the game and do too much individually. Remember, the team whose big man put up the bigger scoring numbers lost each of the 1st 2 meetings.

With the abundance of talented shooters in both sides, there’s a real possibility that the loser of the head-to-head battle will still end up on the winning side.

“It’s pretty obvious that both teams are playing really good basketball, a lot better than the 1st time we played each other,” Burns said. I think it will be very interesting.”