NCAA Basketball Clemson Tigers (21-8, 14-12 ATS) vs. Wake Forest Demon Deacons (18-9, 14-10 ATS), Joel Coliseum, Winston-Salem, Sunday, March 7th, 6 PM Eastern, FSN
By Z-Man of Predictem.com
Point Spread: Deacons -1/Tigers +1
Two ACC teams headed in different directions as of late meet in their regular-season finales when the Demon Deacons of Wake Forest host the Clemson Tigers Sunday night.
Several online sportsbooks opened this game with Wake favored by a point, with a total of 137, but the Deacons have been bumped a half-point in early betting action at a couple of places, while the total has held.
Sagarin’s PREDICTOR ratings at USAToday.com line Wake Forest as about a half-point favorite over Clemson for Sunday’s game.
Clemson was expected to make a run at a top-four finish in the ACC this season, and figured to have a good chance to make a third-straight appearance in the NCAA tournament. And that’s about the way things have played out for the Tigers. They started the season 15-3, with a win over Butler and losses to Texas A&M, Duke and, with that big blown lead, Illinois. Then Clemson went through a stretch in which they lost four of five ACC games. But they’ve recovered to win five of their last six games, after beating Georgia Tech Tuesday night 91-80 as 6 1/2-point home favorites.
Wake Forest was thought to be in for a bit of a rough season this year, and a return to the Big Dance wasn’t necessarily expected. But the Deacs started 11-2, with a win over, among others, Gonzaga. And they won seven of their first 10 ACC games to get to 18-5 overall, and looked like a shoo-in for the NCAA tournament. But Wake suddenly finds itself in a bit of trouble, having lost four straight games after falling at Florida State Wednesday 51-47. And right now is a very bad time to have a five-game losing streak.
At 9-6 in conference play, the Tigers can finish as high as in a tie for third in the ACC regular-season standings, and they’re still in the running for one of the four first-round byes in next week’s conference tournament.
Wake, at 8-7, can’t finish any higher than a tie for fifth in the ACC, and will be playing a first-round conference tournament game next week.
Clemson is rated 24th in the up-to-date RPI ratings, just behind Northern Iowa and just ahead of Texas. Wake Forest, meanwhile, is ranked 34th, which is getting near the danger zone for NCAA tournament at-large hopefuls.
So far this season Clemson is shooting 46% from the field, 34% from 3-point land but only 66% from the FT line. And they went just 15/32 from the stripe in their win Tuesday over G Tech. At the other end of the floor the Tigers are holding opponents to 42% FG shooting.
Wake Forest is shooting 44% from the field, just 32% from long range, and just under 66% from the line. But defensively they’re limiting foes to just 38% FG shooting.
The Deacs also rank 43rd in D1 ball in rebounding at +4.6 PG, while Clemson ranks 97th at +2.6 PG.
But both these teams own negative A/TO ratios this season; the Tigers by a 14.5/14.9 per game margin, Wake by 12.0/15.3.
These two teams haven’t yet met this season. Last season Wake swept two games from the Tigers, by scores of 78-68 and 96-88. That first game stayed under its total of 155, and the second game went over that same total.
Clemson is a rather ugly 2-5 straight up and 1-6 ATS in ACC road games this season. Wake, meanwhile, is 6-1 SU and 4-3 ATS at home in ACC play.
These two teams are a combined 18-29 on the totals this season, even though Tigers games have averaged a rather average 138 points, Deacs games 141.5 points.
And Wake has played three unders in a row, as they’ve averaged just 56 PPG over that span.
Zman’s Pick: I like Wake to win at home.