Wake Forest won't stop Barber, NC State
Before the real behemoths take the hardwood in the days to come, Wake Forest and NC State kick off the ACC tournament this afternoon at 12 p.m. ET.
Online sports book BetDSI lists the 12th-seeded Wolfpack as 4.5-point favorites vs. the Demon Deacons, who enter the Verizon Center in the No. 13 spot.
Neither school enjoyed a distinguished regular season, even though NC State (15-16, 5-13) features one of the most electrifying juniors in the nation. Point guard Anthony “Cat” Barber almost singlehandedly gave Mark Gottfried’s program three wins in its last seven games. His virtuoso scoring ability (23 points per game) and equal savvy as a floor general rivaled any player in the league, while Abdul-Malik Abu and Maverick Rowan combined to chip in an average of 25.4 points in the frontcourt.
Senior forward Devin Thomas represents Wake Forest’s (11-19, 2-16) best counterpunch. The 6-foot-9, 245-pound Pennsylvania native amassed 16 points, 11 rebounds and five assists in the Demon Deacons’ 79-71 loss to Duke last Tuesday. A shade over three weeks ago, he actually ravaged the Wolfpack for 21 boards.
NC State won’t allow a repeat of that Feb. 13 nightmare. Expect loads of help defense to force the ball out of Thomas’ hands, meaning resident gunner Bryant Crawford must convert from the perimeter. Konstantinos Mitoglou and Mitchell Wilbekin present viable threats, too, but the big-game track record simply isn’t there.
Barber hardly bats an eye at such a scenario. With NBA dreams on the horizon, he could use one last collegiate showcase to display that ever-deadly arsenal.
TUESDAY NCAA FREE PICK: NC STATE -4.5