A lot has changed since NC State played Clemson two months ago; the Wolfpack has only gotten better as DJ Burns has emerged as a consistent threat, while the Tigers have been sliding since their surprisingly strong start to league play.
Clemson heads into Saturday ranked 15 spots lower in the Pomeroy Ratings than it was in late December, and its NCAA tournament chances took a dagger to the stomach in the form of a 10-point loss at Louisville. The Tigers have lost three straight road games.
The first game between these teams was extremely forgettable for State, which shot poorly inside and out. Burns played only 19 minutes and fouled out; Baby T was 3-13 from three; Jarkel Joiner scored only six points.
The Tigers have the league’s best interior defense: first in 2FG% defense in ACC games, second in defensive rebounding percentage. Still, you’d have to think NC State will shoot just a little better than 35% on twos this time around, especially now that the Pack has established a clear identity around Burns operating in the post.
He’ll be better, and if Joiner stays on his current heater, the Wolfpack should be in good shape.
They’ll need to do a better job on Hunter Tyson, though; Tyson scored 31 in that first game, and he’s been really good throughout league play. He scored 29 against Syracuse and in ACC games he’s hitting 65% of his twos and 43% of his threes. If both he and PJ Hall are playing well, then Clemson can still be a tough out.
This will be the fourth straight opponent State’s played that is in dire need of a quality win—Clemson is currently in Joe Lunardi’s next four out and have a good half-dozen at-large teams to jump in order to get in the field.
NC State has done a great job handling business at home, going undefeated at PNC Arena since that loss to Pittsburgh way back on Dec. 2. There’s still work to be done from a seeding standpoint, both for the NCAAs and the league tourney. A win over Clemson would leapfrog the Pack past the Tigers in the standings, giving State a good shot at finishing fourth and earning the coveted double-bye. Lots to play for from State’s perspective, too.
KenPom likes the Pack by six.