N.C. State vs Clemson: College Basketball Prediction (3/8/22)
The Clemson Tigers and North Carolina (N.C.) State Wolfpack will travel to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York tonight. They’ll face off in the first round of the ACC Tournament. Clemson owns the 10 seed, posting an 8-12 record in conference play this season. N.C. State hasn’t been as successful, as they’re the 15 seed with a league-worst 4-16 conference record. There are some reasons to believe that both teams are better than their seeding would suggest, though, specifically KenPom’s adjusted efficiency margin. Both teams would be ranked multiple spots higher if these were the metric used. Regardless, in this article, you’ll find my favorite bet for the N.C. State vs Clemson game.
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N.C. State’s been overvalued by Vegas throughout the entire season, and I’ve been attacking them for quite some time. They own a 7-24 against the spread (ATS) record, covering in only 22.6% of their games. This ranks as the second-worst cover percentage in the NCAA ahead of only Pacific. They’re also failing to beat the spread by an average of 3.4 points per game. The Wolfpack haven’t performed well on neutral sites either, recording a 25% cover rate while failing to do so by an average of 4.3 points per game.
It’s important to note that Clemson isn’t an elite ATS team, although they’re slightly above average. They boast a 15-13-3 ATS record, covering in 53.6% of their games. They’re also covering by an average of 0.9 points per game this season. The Tigers have quietly found neutral-site success as well, posting a 2-1-1 ATS record in those games. They’re beating the spread by an average of 6.1 points per game at neutral sites as well.
There are two key ways that State can score the ball - three-pointers and free throws. They aren’t necessarily elite at either method, but they feature one of the worst two-point offenses in the NCAA. Clemson struggled with fouls throughout conference play, but it hasn’t been a major factor throughout the season. The Wolfpack have also struggled to draw fouls, meaning they aren’t likely to live at the line in this game.
The bigger key will be three-pointers. The Wolfpack love shooting them, and the Tigers allow opponents to shoot plenty in their games. The biggest factor here is that Clemson is better at defending the three than defending inside the arc. The clear way to beat them is to get to the rim and line. State won’t be able to do that, meaning their shooting will need to be spectacular in this matchup. That’s completely within the realm of possibilities, as Clemson doesn’t feature a dominant three-point defense.
On the other side, the Wolfpack have struggled to defend at every level on the floor. Clemson also owns higher two-point, three-point, and free throw percentages than State. Although the Tigers don’t rely solely on the deep ball, they rank inside the top-50 of the NCAA in 3P%. If this game turns into a shootout, I favor Clemson slightly. That isn’t likely to be the case, though, as fouls should be available for them. They can attack the basket, put an already thin State rotation in trouble, and get free points out of it. This game plan should be extremely relatively easy, as they’ll find open shots all over the floor. The only thing they need to focus on is defending the three-point line defensively.
One of the more interesting aspects (and most difficult to account for) surrounds offensive rebounding. State is an outstanding offensive rebounding team, while Clemson is one of the better teams at limiting second-chance opportunities for opponents. On the other side, the Tigers aren’t a great rebounding offense, while the Wolfpack struggle on the glass. Ultimately, I slightly favor Clemson in this situation as the numbers line up slightly better for them, although I’m not sure this will be a major factor in this game.
Overall, this spread is surprisingly wide. I was expecting it to be a bit closer for an ACC tournament game. Regardless, N.C. State’s been one of the worst ATS teams in the NCAA, and I’m going to continue to attack that. I don’t expect this game to be a one-possession contest, giving way for Clemson to hit free throws down the line for a late cover. I also wouldn’t be overly surprised if the Tigers blew out the Wolfpack in this game, as they have the offensive capability to score whenever they want against this defense.
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