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Clemson at North Carolina State NCAA Hoops – Jan 20th

A packed day of amazing college basketball lived up to the hype and then some.  I spun my wheels a bit yesterday; hitting Pitt OVER with ease and fanning big time on Arizona State wetting the bed at home against their in-state rival (perhaps that record was a mirage after all, but more on the Pac-12 later…).

Across the country though, the action was nearly never disappointing.  For the fourth time in a month, we will have a new #1 team in the country tomorrow after Syracuse stormed back in one of the more resilient efforts you will see this season to defeat Louisville 70-68.  Most likely Duke slides back into the top spot since Indiana also lost this week at home.  The Pac-12 also began to take interesting shape yesterday with the blowout of Arizona State (no one though they were a legit contender, but I did believe they were better than that) and with Oregon’s HUGE win at surging UCLA.  Gun-to-my-head, before yesterday I would have told you UCLA was probably the best team in the conference, followed by Arizona.  However, Oregon now has beaten all three of the aforementioned teams in consecutive games to remain the only perfect team in the league after beating UCLA on the road.  Impressive.

And lastly, speaking of impressive/intense/slightly bizarre – the end of last night’s Gonzaga v Butler game was about as good as it gets.  If you missed it, it was intense both from a game play AND a wagering standpoint.  With Gonzaga inbounding at midcourt, up one and laying 2.5 or 3, you are HOPING (if you wagered GU) they inbound that ball and Kelly Olynik hits a pair of free throws and you steal a cover (or push).  Instead, the inbounds pass is stolen at midcourt and Roosevelt Jones takes it the length of the floor in 3.5 seconds and hits a 14-foot runner that leave his hand with 0.1 seconds showing for the second stunning Butler win of the season.  If you are keeping score at home, Butler now possesses wins over Gonzaga, Indiana, North Carolina, and Marquette.  Add in conference wins at St. Joes and Dayton and I’m not sure anyone outside of Duke has amassed a more impressive resume.  Is it ludicrous to think Butler could land a #2 or even a #1 seed??

OK, today obviously can never live up to yesterday’s games, but there are a few decent ones on the radar, so let’s see if we can improve upon a .500 week and wrap it up with a nice winner.

Clemson Tigers at North Carolina State Wolfpack -9.5

The Wolfpack have a lot in common with some of the top teams in the country; they have balanced scoring, a dynamic star, a good lineup and good coach… and they take a big step forward and immediately take a step back.  It’s recipe that seemingly every team this season has done a few times (exception being Duke and Butler).  The Pack get the huge win over #1 Duke… and next time out they lose to Maryland.  You can imagine that will be sufficient fuel for Mark Gotfried’s club to come out and play well tonight.

Clemson had a better non-conference slate than many expected, but one that had “moral victories” rather than actual victories.  They played well against Gonzaga and Arizona, but have no wins to show for it.  Conference play has gone much the same way.  They are 2-2, but the wins are Virginia and Wake while the losses are convincing against Duke and Florida State.  This is also a dreadful team on the road.  Not only has every good opponent beaten them by double digits, they also got dropped by 23 at Coastal Carolina.  Ouch.

I don’t see them being able to keep up with NC State’s potent offense and am pretty sure they don’t possess and answer for CJ Leslie.  Perhaps the humbling loss to Maryland was exactly what this team needed to get back focused and on track.  I think it’ll show tonight, and I like them to win and win relatively easily.

Free Pick:  North Carolina State -9.5