Friday, March 21 2014 7:28 AM EDT2014-03-21 11:28:45 GMT
RALEIGH, NC (WMBF) - This week, Coastal Carolina joins Duke, Virginia, Tennessee and several other big name schools at PNC Arena for a weekend of games as the NCAA Tournament is off and running. TomorrowMore >>
Chants take the floor for a practice in Raleigh before taking on top-seeded Virginia Friday night.More >>
(RNN) – College basketball usually saves its marquee matchups for the weekend, but things sometimes get wacky in the time between.
For instance, one of the nation's best defenses is going to test its strength against the most prolific scorer in college basketball; and one of the biggest surprises in the game will soon get a swift drop in altitude when a certain team clad in blue comes calling.
Playing from Monday through Friday is like playing inside the paint – it's rough, it's often unpleasant and it's a chance to show what you're really made of.
N.C. State at Wake Forest – Tuesday, 7 p.m. EST
There probably won't be much drama to this one. N.C. State sits second in the ACC standings with one of the league's best offenses and facing a team that doesn't help itself in any significant way.
Even if you were grading on the curve, it would be hard to defend the Deacons' performance against the Wolfpack in recent years.
N.C. State – winners of five straight in this series – has won the last two games in Winston-Salem by an average of 30 points. Wake's second-leading scorer, C.J. Harris, may pull out of his shooting funk following two straight road games, but not likely. Harris averages nine points and about 29 percent shooting in four career regular-season home games against N.C. State.
The Wolfpack put wins against Duke and Clemson in its pocket in the last 10 days, but the team is 1-2 in true road games this season. It's also playing after just two days rest, while the Deacons have four. There's no telling if C.J. Leslie will show up for this game, but if he dominates the paint we can mark another league win for N.C. State.
Boston College (9-8, 1-3) at Maryland (14-4, 2-3) – Tuesday, 9 p.m. EST, ESPNU
This sums up what Boston College is in for: As a team, Maryland leads the ACC in rebounding margin, but Alex Len's 7.9 boards per game places him just eighth among individual players.
Oh boy, what a team Maryland could be if they took care of the ball. This squad has one of the worst turnover margins in the country.
That has taken away from their win total as well as so many other things they do well, including complete dominance on the boards, a sub-60-point scoring defense and a pick-your-poison group of shooters. The only thing the Terrapins need is consistency to go along with all those weapons.
The Eagles had better be sharp on the free-throw line because other teams that faced Maryland haven't shown a great ability to knock down baskets, and BC's field goal shooting is, shall we say, largely insufficient.
Duke (16-1, 3-1) at Miami (13-3, 4-0) – Wednesday, 7 p.m. EST, ESPN
The league's best player, Mason Plumlee, meets the league's hottest team, and this game will either turn into one of the best of the season or it will get thoroughly ugly.
Miami is on a five-game winning streak and sitting atop the ACC despite one somewhat important fact – they are unimpressive in almost every way. Boston College nearly ruined the Hurricanes' best conference start ever and exploited several weaknesses in the process.
Normally, we'd be hailing Miami as this season's Cinderella, but their ability to slip by for this long speaks more of the overall inconsistency in college basketball this year.
Enter the Blue Devils. Plumlee should have a feast in the paint because Miami center Reggie Johnson is still out with a broken thumb, and it's doubtful backup Julian Gamble can match up with him. There's also not much of a chance the Canes can stop Duke's 42 percent 3-point shooting, the third-best in the country.
Add all that to the news there is more fallout from violations during former coach Frank Haith's tenure, and it's shaping up as a long week for the Canes.
Georgia Tech (10-6, 0-4) at North Carolina (12-5, 2-2), Wednesday, 9 p.m. EST, ESPN
It's hard to say if UNC has finally righted the ship after winning two straight, but if we have to guess, let's say no.
For starters, they can't hit free throws, they give up easy looks at 3-pointers and they are inconsistent in the paint. It seems the Tar Heels believe they can stand around while James Michael McAdoo works himself to death on the inside and shoot the ball like Reggie Bullock from the outside, and neither of those is true.
But at least they don't have as many problems as the Yellow Jackets, who played Duke, N.C. State and Miami in three of their ACC games and faced the nation's top scorer, Erick Green, in the other.
However, Georgia Tech has one of the best scoring defenses in the nation and ranks third in the ACC in shot defense. That includes the league leader in blocked shots, Daniel Miller, so this one could definitely be worth the price of admission.
Clemson (10-7, 2-3) at Florida State (10-7, 2-2), Thursday, 8 p.m. EST, Raycom Sports Network
These two get a second look at each other this month after opening conference play in South Carolina.
Florida State is trying to stop a two-game slide, while Clemson is trying to keep from losing two straight after falling by four to N.C. State on Sunday.
The words "defensive struggle" come to mind – or maybe it's just better to say "struggle." Clemson held both Wake Forest and Virginia to 44 points in wins before losing to the Wolfpack. The Seminoles, on the other hand, recently put up 36 (yes, in the entire game) in a 20-point loss to Virginia.
Devin Booker's eight rebounds per game will come in handy for Clemson, and he will likely pad that average because neither of these teams is very good at filling up the basket.
Florida State really needs Michael Snaer to take care of the ball in addition to getting his usual 14 per game to give the team a chance. He has been held under double digits in the past two games, and that trend has to stop.
Virginia (12-5, 2-2) at Virginia Tech (11-6, 2-2), Thursday 8 p.m. EST, Raycom Sports Network
A couple of feast-or-famine teams square off in a game that has story lines that will excite you in spite of woeful deficiencies on either side.
The Hokies' Green and his NCAA-best 25 points per game collide with the second-stingiest defense in the entire country.
And the Cavaliers can't afford to give up a single point more than they do because their offense is the worst in the ACC and near the bottom of the nation.
Virginia Tech, ironically, can't stop anyone from scoring so Green's offensive brilliance doesn't mean nearly as much.
Watching this game will be like watching a pair of poker players at the same table trying to bluff all night.
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