If North Carolina State has truly made progress over the last couple of weeks, it should show in Tuesday night’s home game with Stanford.
The Cardinal are the last team from a power conference the Wolfpack (6-2) will face before diving into an 18-game ACC schedule, so it’s important on several levels that Mark Gottfried’s nationally ranked team keeps moving the nose in the right direction.
Stanford’s best win so far is probably over Northern Iowa, which recently beat George Mason on the road, and the 7-3 Cardinal have fallen at home to Belmont and on neutral sites to Missouri and Minnesota. The defeats were close, and Stanford, which is coached by former Duke great Johnny Dawkins, has won three consecutive games. So it should go into PNC Arena with some confidence.
N.C. State can’t afford to go through funks that seemingly pop up in every home game, often a trickle-down effect courtesy of junior forward C.J. Leslie. If he plays with a purpose, N.C. State will win this game with relative ease. If he doesn’t, N.C. State can still win, especially if combo guard Lorenz Brown continues to play well and grow into the role of game-manager more.
This is a very important game for RPI purposes, confidence and more education against a quality foe with legitimate size and athletic ability.
Pick: N.C. State, 76-66.
La-Monroe (1-5) at Florida State (5-4)
Full Court Press: The Warhawks’ only victory came over SE Louisiana and most of their losses have been by wide margins and some against bad teams. FSU has to take care of business early and get a feel-good win out of this.
Pick: FSU, 82-57.
Alabama State (1-8) at Georgia Tech (6-2)
Full Court Press: The Hornets actually beat Troy last week, so maybe they are improving. But it shouldn’t matter in this game. The most intriguing aspect of the game is that Tech freshman Solomon Poole, who recently graduated from high school, will be in uniform for the Yellow Jackets. His brother, Stacey, is a transfer from Kentucky and will debut with Tech this weekend.
Pick: Georgia Tech, 75-53.
Furman (3-6) at Wake Forest (4-5)
Full Court Press: As poorly as the Demon Deacons have played, it’s doubtful the Paladins will spring an upset. They have losses on their resume by 27 points to Loyola (Ill), 21 to Columbia, and by 27 to Mercer.
Pick: Wake Forest, 73-60.
Miami (6-1) at Central Florida (6-2)
Full Court Press: The Knights are off to a nice start, but they were beaten soundly by Florida and Middle Tennessee State and their best win is over Old Dominion, which is struggling more than it has in many years. The Hurricanes’ last three games have been wins over Michigan State, at UMass and last Friday they eased past a Charlotte team that entered the contest 9-0. Miami is playing very good hoops.
Pick: Miami, 74-62.
Clemson (6-3) at Coastal Carolina (3-5)
Full Court Press: The Chanticleers’ only Division I victory is over Akron, and among its losses are to Tennessee Tech, Florida International, and twice to Boston U. But this is a road game for the Tigers and will be in Coastal’s new $35 million facility. Clemson would do itself well avoiding the upset.
Pick: Clemson, 67-61.
Cornell (4-5) at Duke (9-0)
Full Court Press: The newly-crowned No. 1 team in the nation will play the first of back-to-back nights at home. The Big Red has won three of its last four contests, including a 34-point rout of Presbyterian. But they won’t offer too much resistance for the Blue Devils, especially inside against Mason Plumlee. Younger brother Marshall Plumlee could see action this week.
Pick: Duke, 90-67.
Morgan State (3-4) at Virginia (8-2)
Full Court Press: The Bears have been clobbered by South Carolina and Illinois State, though all three victories are over Division I clubs. Morgan could hang some with the Cavaliers because it’s a good rebounding team and sometimes shoots well. If UVa is off, this could be a relatively close game.
Pick: Virginia, 68-54.
North Carolina (8-2) at Texas (6-4)
Full Court Press: Rick Barnes’ team has struggled more than was expected. The Longhorns have lost to Chaminade and USC in Maui, but also to Georgetown and UCLA, which also hasn’t played well. Texas has major offensive issues running a smooth offense and putting the ball through the cylinder. UNC may have point guard issues, but it still leads the nation in assists and is fourth in scoring. The Tar Heels will lose this game if they go through lousy defensive stretches and don’t match Texas’ physical play. Otherwise, Carolina should win.
Pick: UNC, 74-66.
Elon (6-4) at Duke (9-0)
Full Court Press: Duke will play on a second consecutive night at home against an opponent it should handle. Elon will make the 25-mile trek and could hang around for a while. The Phoenix’s losses have come in overtime (twice) and by two points to the College of Charleston and 15 points to Butler. Elon won at South Carolina. Duke’s challenge will be meeting Mike Krzyzewski’s intensity and focus requirements, and if they shoot moderately well will pull away.