Tip: 7:30 p.m. ET
Television: ACC Network Extra
North Carolina State Team Overview
Record: 12-4 (2-3)
Kienbaum Rank: 44 (Offense 36, Defense 60)
Recent games: 84-60W vs. Duke, 78-64L at Clemson, 76-64W vs. Louisville
So. G Terquavion Smith (18.4 ppg, 4.9 apg, 1.9 spg)
Jarkel Joiner (16 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 3.8 apg)
Father G Casey Morsell (13.1 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 45.7% 3P)
After a dominant home win against Duke, this NC State team is full of confidence and hoping to get their conference record hit. 500. Terquavion Smith showed why he is one of the best guards in the ACC and a potential first-round selection with 24 points, while fellow backcourt Jarkel Joiner had 21 and 9 assists. However, the Wolfpack can’t ride too high when they head to Blacksburg to take on a tough Virginia Tech team.
Offensively, this monster team is led by three-headed guards Terquavion Smith, Jarkel Joiner and Casey Morsell). Smith and Joyner are the primary tacklers and running offense, while Morsell is the sharpshooter, leading the ACC in three-point percentage (45.7%). This team increases its possessions by not turning over the ball (10th best shooting percentage in the nation) and not blocking its shots (17th best blocking percentage).
Key players Jack Clark and Duzan Mahorsic are out indefinitely, and those injuries are blighting this team’s potential. This team has faltered on defensive end this season, but the head coach may have found something in the Duke game by bringing Providence transfer Greg Gantt and 6′ 11 shot blocker Ebenezer Dowuona into the starting lineup at four-and-five. Both players are more defensive-minded, which helps balance out their aggressive scoring style from the backcourt. Big man DJ Burns was thought to be the answer when Mahorcic went down, but now he fits in well as a sixth man, due to his offensive pop, but poor defensive capabilities. Analytically, this team’s best attribute is its ability to control the plates, ranking fourth in the ACC in rebounding margin. Clarke and Mahorsic were the team’s top finishers, but Gant and Doona have the strength and fitness to carry on the same team success on the glass.
This team is 0-2 in its only real games on the road this season, missing chances in the first quarter winning Miami, and being dominated by Clemson. Duke has been poor on the road this season, so a win could end up saying more for the Blue Devils than the Wolfpack. That’s a big place for NC State to avoid falling to 2-4 in conference.
Virginia Tech team overview
Record: 11-4 (1-3)
Kienbaum Rank: 35 (Offense 31, Defense 52)
Recent matches: 68-65 L vs Clemson, 77-75 L at Wake Forest, 70-65 (OT) L at Boston College
So. J. Shaun Pedulla (17.1 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 4.3 apg)
Grant Basile (13.8 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 1.5 bpg)
Father Justin Moots (13.4 ppg, 8.2 rpg, 1.6 spg)
On a three-game losing streak, this Virginia Tech team is desperate for a win. Hunter Cator was injured in the second half of the BC game, and since then the Hokies have dropped three close goals. It’s a game time decision for this game, but it looks like it’s going to play out. The Hokies tried to get a big lead with starting C Lynn Kidd the previous two games, but he stopped the team’s offensive flow a bit. Cattoor is one of the best shooters in the ACC, so his return would be massive, as head coach Mike Young will be able to return to his old rotation.
Offensively, this team is incredibly effective, as they don’t turn the ball over (14.6 TO%, 9th in the nation). Across the game’s three losing streak, this level of interest in basketball did not last for the Hockey, as they lost the turnover battle by 6 in losses to Boston College and Wake Forest. The Hockey shoots efficiently from inside the arc (52nd in two-point percentile nationally), which can largely be attributed to big guys Justin Moots and Grant Basile. Mike Young’s set is best on the offensive side, but they do a good job of defending against fouling (22nd best opposing free throw rate), and forcing powerful shots inside the arc (45.7% opposing 2 points, 53rd nationally).
The X factor with the Hokies will be how well they can contain the NC State Rangers. Pedulla, Cattoor, and Darius Maddox will be tasked with guarding the Wolfpack’s perimeter, and I’m skeptical they’ll be able to contain these three players. Wake’s Tyree Appleby went for 24 and Boston College’s Makai Ashton-Langford went for 21. The Hawkeyes have struggled containing fast and explosive guards lately. Making things difficult for Smith and the rest of the Wolfpack guards will be key.
Choice: NC State +4
While I was initially inclined to pick Virginia Tech on a clear rebounding game at home after a losing streak, I actually think NC State matches them very well, although I think this game will be pretty close. Ultimately, Virginia Tech thrives on playing smart defense and not fouling, but NC State has the ability to explode the perimeter to nail difficult, contested shots by making shots from its guards. Smith and Joyner were terrific in beating Duke, and even though it was tough to win in Blacksburg, I expected them to keep their rhythm on Saturday night. With two even teams here that both really need to win, I’d rather take the points with NC State, although I think Virginia Tech gets away with winning.
Predicting the score: Virginia Tech 74, NC State 71
ATS record: 3-2
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