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Clemson Basketball Travels to NC State with Last Hope of NCAA Berth on the Line

The 20-8 (12-5) Tigers have a virtual elimination game on the road against an NC State team that has not lost a home game since December 2nd.

NCAA Basketball: North Carolina at N.C. State Jaylynn Nash-USA TODAY Sports

Clemson at NC State

Time: Noon, Saturday (2/25)
Location: The Carolina Hurricanes’ Arena where they let NC State play
TV: Regional Sports Network / ACCNX

The Tigers are not in the latest Joe Lunardi bracketology. They’re not in the first four out or even the next four out. Meanwhile, NC State is projected to be an 8-seed. How can that be when NC State is fifth in the ACC standings (12-6) while Clemson is half a game up at 12-5?

It’s rather simple, NC State performed much better in non-conference play with their only loss coming to Kansas. They also earned a solid win against Dayton. Meanwhile, Clemson lost to South Carolina (now 10-18 on the season), Loyola-Chicago (now 9-18), and Iowa (who is solid and potentially tournament-bound).

NC State also played a tougher ACC schedule. Both teams faced Georgia Tech and Wake Forest twice, but Clemson also faced lower-tier teams in Florida State, Virginia, Tech, and Louisville two times. NC State on the other hand faced North Carolina twice (beat them both times!), Miami twice (split), and will finish their year with Duke — who they’ve already beat.

For NC State, this game is about locking up their spot and earning more favorable seeding in the NCAA and ACC tournament. The winner of this game will likely finish with a top four-seed in the ACC tournament which is essentially a pre-requisite to winning it.

NC State finds themselves in this advantageous positions in large part because of Terquavion Smith. The 6-foot-4 sophomore put up 20 points in their December 30th loss at Clemson (78-64) and leads the team in points (17.9), assists (4.4) and steals (1.6). A big reason why Clemson beat NC State in Littlejohn back in December was Hunter Tyson’s 31-point, 13-rebound performance. He shot an insane 5-8 from 2, 4-5 from 3, and 9-9 from the free throw line. Getting their key post-player, DJ Burns, to foul out didn’t hurt either.

You can’t count on all that happening again, but the Tigers will need to find some hot shooting. Tyson was 10-16 for 29 points in Wednesday’s win over Syracuse so hopefully he is heating up again.

Back in January, Clemson picked up back-to-back road wins at Virginia Tech and Pittsburgh. That set-up the hot start that had them leading the conference for much of the year and still has them alive (barely) despite their current 1-4 skid. Now, they must replicate that and win back-to-back games at NC State and at Virginia to make the NCAA tournament.

Here’s to hot shooting and a final bid to make something of this crazy season.