Saturday's home game vs. No. 25 Notre Dame likely will be rather uncomfortable for NC State head coach Mark Gottfried as he was fired Thursday but will finish out the season. Gottfried asked to be allowed to do so out of loyalty to his players, so you have to respect that. He has an overall record of 122-82 at NC State, and he had three years left on his contract worth a total of $2.3 million. There's no way the Wolfpack should be 3-11 in the ACC with a mega-talent in freshman point guard Dennis Smith Jr., a sure-fire Top-5 pick in this year's NBA Draft. NC State enters Saturday's game on a six-game skid , and the past three have been embarrassing blowouts. Some names I have heard the school will reach out to: Dayton's Archie Miller (an NC State graduate who is the No. 1 guy), Wichita State's Gregg Marshall and Butler's Chris Holtmann. NC State is a tough gig since you have to go up against Roy Williams and Mike Krzyzewski in recruiting every year and you are the third wheel in the state.
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Clemson at Miami ( -3.5 )
ACC game at noon ET with no national TV (ACC Extra). This might be the biggest bubble game of the day, and the Hurricanes will be missing a very important player. That would be starting point guard Ja'Quan Newton. Before UM's home game vs. Georgia Tech on Wednesday, the school announced Newton was suspended three games for violating a team rule. He also missed the final three games of the regular season last year due to violating an undisclosed team rule. Newton is second on the team in averaging 15.0 points while adding 3.8 rebounds and 3.6 assists per night. UM was OK without him vs. the Jackets in a 70-61 victory. However, center Ebuka Izundu left 67 seconds into the second half with a left leg injury. He averages 4.5 points and 3.2 rebounds in about 12 minutes per game. The Canes are a thin team even at full strength with only nine scholarship players. They are currently projected as a No. 9 seed in the NCAA Tournament but not far from the bubble.
Clemson is listed among ESPN's "first four out" for the Big Dance. At 14-11 overall and 4-9 in the ACC, I surely don't think the Tigers deserve consideration at the moment. They have an RPI rating of 52 with five Top-50 wins and, to be fair, six of their nine ACC losses are by a combined 16 points. Clemson comes off a 95-83 home victory over fellow bubble team Wake Forest on Tuesday to end a three-game losing streak. Marcquise Reed had 21 points and star Jaron Blossomgame 17 points and 10 rebounds. This is the only scheduled meeting between Miami and Clemson. The Canes are 4-2 in the series under Coach Jim Larranaga but lost last year.
Key trends: The Tigers are 5-2 against the spread in their past seven Saturday games. The Canes are 3-9 ATS in their past 12 after a win. They are 2-11 ATS in their past 13 at home. Clemson is 6-1-1 ATS in the past eight meetings.
I'm leaning: Clemson.
No. 2 Villanova at Seton Hall (+6.5)
Big East game at 12:30 p.m. ET on Fox. Villanova could make history with a win and some help Sunday from DePaul when it visits No. 24 Butler. The Cats lead the Big East by three games over the Bulldogs - those two play next Wednesday and Butler won the first meeting. A Villanova win vs. Seton Hall clinches at least a share of the Big East regular-season title. The Wildcats are attempting become the first Big East team to ever win four consecutive conference championships, and an outright title would set the Big East record at five outright championships. Georgetown also has four. Villanova is going to be the outright champion, it's just a matter of whether it happens this weekend or next week. On Monday, Nova won at DePaul 75-62 for its sixth straight victory. Nova's senior class of Josh Hart, Kris Jenkins and Darryl Reynolds tied the 1987 Georgetown team for the most career wins in the history of the Big East at 122. Villanova played without Reynolds (5.3 ppg, 5.5 rpg) for the second straight game due to a rib injury and he's in question here.
Huge game for Seton Hall, the defending Big East Tournament champion. The Pirates are currently listed among ESPN's "last four in" for the Big Dance. They come off a resume-boosting 87-81 home win Wednesday over No. 20 Creighton. Junior guard Khadeen Carrington blew up for a career-high 41 points, including 10 in the final 41 seconds, on 10-for-15 shooting and 18-for-22 from the charity stripe. Carrington's 41 points were the most by a Pirate since Jeremy Hazell posted 41 on Dec. 26, 2009, against West Virginia. Junior Angel Delgado had his 20th double-double of the season with a 17-point 17-rebound showing. He leads the country in rebounding. Seton Hall was crushed 76-46 at Villanova on Jan. 16. The Wildcats made 12 of 26 3-pointers and held Seton Hall to 16 field goals.
Key trends: The Wildcats are 1-7 ATS in their past eight overall. The Pirates are 10-3-1 AST in their past 14 at home vs. teams with a winning road record. Villanova is 1-5 ATS in its past six at Seton Hall.
I'm leaning: Seton Hall.
No. 14 Virginia at No. 10 North Carolina (-3.5)
ACC game at 8:15 p.m. ET on ESPN. What's going on with Virginia? The Wahoos don't have to worry about an NCAA berth, but they aren't winning the ACC regular-season title now and might not get a Top-4 seed and double-bye in the conference tournament after dropping four of six. Virginia, one of the nation's top defensive teams, blew a big second-half lead last Sunday at Virginia Tech in an OT loss and then was dominated in the second half again Wednesday in a 65-55 home defeat to Duke. In its past four losses, UVa has allowed its opponents to shoot at least 50 percent in the second half. This team isn't good enough offensively to win in that scenario. Virginia's 55 points were its fewest scored this season, and Duke's isn't exactly great defensively.
UNC leads the ACC by a game but this starts a torturous five-game stretch. Next up are vs. No. 8 Louisville, at Pittsburgh (never easy to win there), at Virginia and home against No. 12 Duke. If the Heels get through that unbeaten, they deserve the ACC regular-season crown and potentially a top seed in the NCAA Tournament. Carolina added to Gottfried's woes on Wednesday in a 97-73 blowout at NC State. The Tar Heels finished with a 60-22 edge in points in the paint, a 41-25 rebounding advantage and 27 second-chance points. UNC got a bit thinner, however, as guard Kenny Williams missed the game and his season is likely over due to upcoming knee surgery. Williams is averaging 6.2 points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.2 assists in 23.7 minutes per night and was a very good defender. North Carolina and Virginia split last year, with UNC beating the Cavs 61-57 in the ACC title game.
Key trends: The Cavs are 7-2 ATS in their past nine after a loss. The Heels are 1-4 ATS in their past five. The home team is 8-2 ATS in the past 10 meetings.
I'm leaning: North Carolina.
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