Tigers salvaging what they can from lost year
After starting conference play with serious Big Dance aspirations, Clemson closed the regular season by dropping 12 of its final 17 games. So what kind of effort will Brad Brownell’s program muster up as the ACC tournament begins?
The 16-14 Tigers face North Carolina State at noon today on ESPN, with the winner advancing to battle fifth-seeded Duke in the second round. Online sports book Bovada.lv gives Clemson odds of -350 to take care of business at the Barclays Center. Conversely, the Wolfpack represent +280 underdogs.
Nine of the Tigers’ 12 league losses came by a margin of six points or fewer. The team has a habit of getting mauled on the glass, too, ranking 235th nationally in rebounding margin (-0.9). Only Jaron Blosssomgame seems immune to the all-encompassing struggles. The senior forward, who torched NC State for a career-high 33 points last February, boasts two double-doubles over the past three weeks.
Freshman guard Dennis Smith Jr. is a similarly deadly threat on the other side, averaging 18.5 points, 6.3 assists, 4.5 boards and 1.9 steals. One wonders, however, about the Wolfpack’s general level of engagement in Mark Gottfried’s potential farewell appearance on the sideline. Athletic director Debbie Yow recently announced the veteran coach would be dismissed following the 2016-17 campaign.
We’re not disputing that NC State (15-16) possesses more ways to score the basketball. Gottfried’s defense surrenders so many easy buckets, though, it’s impossible to recommend Smith & Co here. Go with Clemson in a deceptively lopsided affair.
TUESDAY NCAA FREE PICK: CLEMSON -6