Opening Round Preview: Clemson and N.C. State Battle In The Nightcap

In the ACC Tournament nightcap, the 6th seeded Clemson Tigers take on the 11th seeded N.C. State Wolfpack. The winner faces the 3rd seeded Florida State Seminoles.

Clemson enters the ACC Tournament with a record of 21-9 (9-7 ACC). The Tigers are coming off a disappointing 70-65 loss to Wake Forest. The Deacons were able to keep Tigers leading scorer Trevor Booker in check, and shots just weren’t falling for Clemson that night. Oliver Purnell’s squads shot only 38 percent from the field, and were only able connect on 5 of 25 three point attempts. Demontez Stitt led the Tigers with 18 points, all in the second half. The loss sent the Tigers hurdling down the ACC standings. A win over Wake would have secured the tournament’s 3 seed (and a crucial first round bye). Instead, the Tigers loss coupled with an FSU over Miami jumped the Noles all the way up to the 3 seed.

Despite the setback, the Tigers are one of the few ACC teams to finish strong down the stretch. Clemson went 6-4 in their last 10 with key wins over Georgia Tech, Florida State (x2) and Maryland.

N.C. State, on the other hand, enters the tournament on a winning note. The ‘Pack knocked off the Boston College Eagles 66-54 on senior night at the RBC Center. N.C. State closed the game with a 20-5 run to secure the victory. After taking a nasty spill and receiving a cut to the head, senior forward Dennis Horner returned to score 11 of his 14 points in the second half to lead N.C. State to victory. Tracy Smith added 19 points and 7 rebounds.

After starting the season 10-3, the Wolfpack managed only a 7-11 record in 2010. However, they ride momentum going into the tournament, winners of 3 of their last 4 games. Despite N.C. State’s 5-11 mark, they do have quality wins over Duke, Wake Forest, Florida State and Marquette. Along with those quality wins are equally puzzling losses to Northwestern, Virginia and UNC.

In this season’s only meeting, the Tigers edged the Wolfpack 73-70 to improve to 15-3 on the season. Clemson nearly blew a 21-point lead before closing the book on N.C. State. The Wolfpack’s sophomore guard Julius Mays attempted a 3 to tie the game that rattled off the front of the rim. Mays had a season-high 17 points in the losing effort.

Clemson loves to play a pressure defense, pressing opponents early and often. If Clemson is able to keep N.C. State’s guards off-balance and force turnovers, the result will likely be the same as the regular season matchup. After Wake Forest found an answer for Trevor Booker, Booker needs to establish himself early in this game, alleviating the pressure on Clemson’s guards. For N.C. State, they need to provide an answer to CU's Booker, and their guards need to have a solid game breaking the Tiger press. In the paint, the Booker vs. Smith battle is going to be fun to watch.

GAME NOTES: Clemson is a paltry 16-55 all-time in the ACC Tournament. N.C. State has enjoyed quite a bit of success over the years, posting a 61-45 record in the tourney. State is one of four teams with a winning record all-time in the tournament (North Carolina, Duke and newcomer BC are the others). N.C. State holds a 5-2 edge over Clemson in the ACC Tournament, although you have to go all the way back to 1994 to find the last time the Tigers and the Wolfpack faced one another (a 76-63 win by Clemson).

FACTS & STATS: Site: Greensboro Coliseum (23,500) - Greensboro, North Carolina. Television: Raycom. Home Record: Clemson 14-2, N.C. State 10-7. Away Record: Clemson 5-6, N.C. State 4-7. Neutral Record: Clemson 2-1, N.C. State 3-0. Conference Record: Clemson 9-7, N.C. State 5-11. ACC Tournament Series Record: N.C. State leads the all-time series 5-2.

Thursday, March 11th, 9:00 PM ET (Raycom)

N.C. State always seems to overachieve in the ACC Tournament, but I think that Trevor Booker, Demontez Stitt and the Tigers will be too much for Sidney Lowe’s Wolfpack.

Prediction: Clemson 75, N.C. State 68


Brian Favat and Jeff Martyn write about the Boston College Eagles at BC Interruption.

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