Beyond the Scoreboard: The good, the bad and the Wolfpack

Virginia's Kyle Guy (5) shoots over North Carolina State's Omer Yurtseven (14) in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Sunday, Jan. 14, 2018, in Charlottesville, Va. (Zack Wajsgras/The Daily Progress via AP)

Will the real N.C. State team please stand up?

To tell the truth, it’s hard to figure out if the Wolfpack under first-year head coach Kevin Keatts are the dangerous squad that has knocked off Arizona and Duke when each was ranked No. 2 in the country or the same old knuckleheads from seasons past that have already lost five games to unranked teams, including UNC Greensboro.

The answer is both, and both were on display Thursday night in a 78-77 win at home vs. No. 19 Clemson.

The Pack (12-5, 2-2 ) were good enough to build a double-digit lead late in the game and dumb enough to almost give it all back before escaping when Clemson missed a free throw in the final second.

The good N.C. State better show up Sunday at No. 3 Virginia (15-1, 4-0), the only ACC team left unscathed through the first two weeks of league play. The 6 p.m. start will be televised by ESPNU.

The Cavaliers as always are playing the best suffocating half-court defense in all the land, and Tony Bennett has more athleticism and offense than in recent seasons. Virginia by 10.

Saturday’s Games

No. 20 North Carolina (13-4, 2-2) at No. 25 Notre Dame (13-4, 3-1), 6 p.m. on ESPN – Bet you didn’t know this stat – Notre Dame’s overall victory total (97) and league wins (49) are the best of any program ever in its first four years in the ACC.

But history lesson aside, the Tar Heels couldn’t pick a better time to come into Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish are missing their top two players and leaders, seniors Bonzie Colson (broken foot) and Matt Farrell (sprained ankle).

Colson is out until late February, Farrell’s return date is uncertain but the point guard is not expected to play in this one. North Carolina by 7.

No. 18 Miami (13-2, 2-1) at No. 19 Clemson (14-2, 3-1), 3 p.m. on ESPNU – There are no more Hofstras and Samfords on the Tigers’ schedule.

Clemson’s 10-game winning streak ended in Raleigh Thursday night, and this is the first of four straight games against ranked opponents.

Miami has played just once in 10 days, but it was a sold win last week against Florida State. Clemson by 2.

Wake Forest (8-8, 1-3) at No. 7 Duke (14-2, 2-2), noon on WLOS/Ch. 13 - After a rough start to ACC play that included a 1-2 record and allowing more than 90 points a game, the Blue Devils turned to a soft league schedule to get better.

A 14-day stretch of five games includes two meetings each against lightweights Pittsburgh and Wake Forest, sandwiched around a trip to Miami.

Duke began the cupcake diet with a 35-point win at Pitt.

The Demon Deacons are tumbling, losers are four of their last five. Duke by 13.

UNC Greensboro (11-5, 2-1) at Western Carolina (7-9, 3-1), 7:30 p.m. on ESPN3 – Peruse the Southern Conference stat sheet and it makes you wonder how the Catamounts are off to such a good start in league play?

WCU is at or near the bottom in a lot of categories, but third in the only important one – the standings. Coach Larry Hunter’s gritty bunch seems to produce a different hero in every game as the Cats have clawed back from a 3-7 start.

In the second of three straight home games at the Ramsey Center, WCU has a chance to put itself in good shape for a run at a first-division finish.

Greensboro is playing well under coach Wade Miller, having won six of eight but coming off a 10-point loss Thursday at league leader East Tennessee State, which shares the top spot with Furman at 4-0. Greensboro by 4.

Last week: 5-1 overall and against the spread. For the season: 10-2 overall, 7-5 against the spread.

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