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ACC midweek: Eagles, others have something to prove

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Hard-scrabble effort from the Eagles has not resulted in wins, but they could get over the hump against North Carolina. (Source: ACC Digital Network) Hard-scrabble effort from the Eagles has not resulted in wins, but they could get over the hump against North Carolina. (Source: ACC Digital Network)
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(RNN) – We got more reminders last week that betting on collegiate athletics is only slightly smarter than smoking while standing at the gas pump.

Obviously, college basketball players are better at playing their game than "experts" are at predicting the outcomes.

And who says excitement in the sport is only reserved for March?

For those of us who can watch games without worrying about a heart condition and are wise enough to keep the cash in our pockets, the slate for this week has some more potential heartbreakers.

Georgia Tech at Clemson, Tuesday, 7 p.m. EST

Clemson (11-8,-3-4) is coming off a win against Virginia Tech that snapped a two-game losing streak, but then again, who isn't beating Virginia Tech these days?

In a good sign for the Tigers, they outlasted the Hokies while their leading scorer, Devin Booker, was nonexistent (3 points, no field goals).

This isn't a good matchup for Georgia Tech (11-7, 1-5). The Yellow Jackets' rebounding ability and defense gives them plenty of opportunities, which they consistently fail to take advantage of. They don't shoot well from the outside, and if they ever bothered to attempt any meaningful work in the paint, Clemson would eat their lunch.

NC State at Virginia, Tuesday, 7 p.m. EST, ESPN2

Question: Why have the Cavaliers (14-5, 4-2) attempted fewer free throws than almost every other team in America?

No, it's not because they shoot a lot from the outside. It's because they're so good at spacing the floor and getting shots off quickly that defenders can't close out. Imagine that – you can't get there fast enough to either defend or foul.

That combined with a suffocating defense explains why they have the ACC's lowest-scoring offense and still outscore opponents by 12 points per game.

If NC State wasn't shaken up enough by losses to Maryland and Wake Forest, their knees should be wet by now. This is a scary game for the Wolfpack (16-4, 5-2), which is possibly overconfident coming off a win over North Carolina and facing a rightly confident Virginia squad.

Regardless of your team of preference, you should make time to catch this game if you like quality basketball.

North Carolina at Boston College, Tuesday, 9 p.m. EST, ESPNU

Normally, the synopsis of this game would be very brief and heavily tilted toward the kids dressed in their own shade of blue.

However, this is not the year to trust North Carolina (13-6, 3-3). The Tar Heels have attempted 30 more 3-pointers than free throws this season, and that tells you just about all you need to know.

True, the Eagles (9-10, 1-5) have lost four straight, but they've been in every game, and that's not meant in a "moral victory" sort of way. BC is plus-12 in turnovers and playing great defense in January, especially the last three games.

The key to the Eagles winning this game – and they definitely should win – is Olivier Hanlan slashing to the basket and drawing fouls and Ryan Anderson banging away in the paint because they have an overwhelming edge over UNC on the free throw line.

Duke at Wake Forest, Wednesday, 8 p.m. EST, ACC Network

Let's begin this segment talking about Wake Forest – the home team for this game, the one that beat Virginia and NC State in a two-week span, the one that took Virginia Tech to the wire and a week later got blown out by Georgia Tech.

Now, let's talk about Duke – powerhouse dynasty with high-pedigree players, hall of fame coach, the team that rolled over like a sick dog against NC State and then went ahead and died on Miami's court.

Both these teams are a microcosm of what this season has been about – your school name means nothing each night you take the floor.

Common sense says Duke (17-2, 4-2) should win this game, but common sense has apparently never met C.J. Harris and Travis McKie, the inside-outside combo that alternately causes headaches for Wake Forest's opponents. And, oh by the way, there's freshman Devin Thomas, who carried the team in its win against the Wolfpack.

The Demon Deacons (10-9, 3-4) may very well live up to their nickname and make life unbearable for Duke, win or lose.

Maryland at Florida State, Wednesday, 8 p.m. EST, ACC Network

With a recent 47-point output against Miami, maybe Florida State's 56-36 loss to Virginia wasn't all on the Cavs defense.

The young Seminoles (11-8, 3-3) are learning to take advantage of an incredible size advantage they have on the perimeter and the wing, but one thing is for sure – they aren't going to get dirt under their nails on the boards.

Since FSU can't overpower the Terrapins (15-5, 3-4) and they definitely can't outshoot them, their best bet is to use that size and quickness to get to the basket. The Seminoles lead the ACC in free throw percentage.

Maryland is the best rebounding team in the league, but the more shots the ‘Noles take closer to the basket, the less of an advantage that is for the Terps.

Miami at Virginia Tech, Wednesday, 9 p.m. EST

The Hurricanes are six games into ACC play and still proving people wrong – including me. I was still holding losses to Florida Gulf Coast University and Indiana State against them. My bad.

Now the Hurricanes (15-3, 6-0) can prove they're worth all the praise people are heaping upon them by making maroon and orange mincemeat out of the Hokies.

One reason Virginia Tech (11-8, 2-4) will find it very uncomfortable playing the Hurricanes is because they're huge. Playing Miami's starting five across the board must feel like lining up against football players that can dribble.

The Hokies are also one-dimensional – and that dimension's name is Erick Green. Jarell Eddie is the only other player on the team averaging double figures, which is only a problem because they don't play defense.

If the Hokies don't outrun the ‘Canes (they won't) and Miami pounds on Virginia Tech like an angry older brother (it will), this game will be hard to tolerate for very long.

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