Each weekday, our college hoops experts discuss the biggest issues, trends and themes in college basketball.
1. NC State kept it relatively close in two losses against Duke this season. Any chance the Wolfpack close the gap and send the Blue Devils home early from the ACC tournament?
Andy Katz: Yes. The Wolfpack have a wild card in Anthony "Cat" Barber. He can carry this team to a win.
Eamonn Brennan: There's always a chance, sure. Barber really has been great for the Wolfpack in an otherwise disappointing season, and NC State has the kind of size and physicality that -- at least in theory -- gives Duke problems. Also, it's the ACC tournament, so who knows? That said, you're essentially asking me whether I think a team coached by Mark Gottfried could beat a team coached by Mike Krzyzewski. And the answer to that question is no.
John Gasaway: Absolutely. I expect a shootout, because both the Blue Devils and (especially) the Wolfpack are, shall we say, questionable on defense. If I'm Gottfried I'm telling Abdul-Malik Abu to hit Duke where it's most vulnerable and attack the offensive glass.
2. Both Syracuse and Pittsburgh have work to do to get in the NCAA tournament. They play Wednesday in the ACC tournament. Can either lose and still get in the NCAA tournament?
Katz: Yes. I firmly believe both have done enough to get in. I don't see it as an elimination game.
Brennan: Syracuse, maybe? I still think the Orange's with Jim Boeheim/without Jim Boeheim résumé split works in their favor, despite their dire regular-season finish. Pittsburgh, though? The Panthers' nonconference schedule was an RPI-exploiting joke, save their Big Ten/ACC Challenge-mandated home blowout loss to Purdue, and other than wins over Duke (home) and Notre Dame (away) they've spent the majority of the season looking aggressively mediocre. They also beat Syracuse twice. Let's put Monmouth and Valpo in the field and call the whole thing off.
Gasaway: I agree with Eamonn, and not just because he's the proprietor of Bubble Watch. The stretch that Syracuse played without Boeheim on the sidelines constitutes a handy exculpatory rejoinder anytime a case is made against the Orange in the committee room. And while it's possible that Pittsburgh could get in even with a loss here, the next few days will be somewhat more relaxing for the winning team.
3. Who is the player to watch on Wednesday?
Katz: Jaron Blossomgame. The Clemson scorer could loom large for the Tigers if they are going to advance.
Brennan: Grayson Allen. With apologies to Virginia Tech's Seth Allen, who has helped lead the Buzz Williams-coached Hokies to a crazily respectable ACC finish, the fact that Duke is gracing the Wednesday of Champ Week with its presence -- however surprising -- means that Allen is the player to watch, no questions asked. Has he intentionally tripped a couple of dudes this season? Yep! Was the ACC hilariously gentle in its "reprimand"? Of course. Is he an awesome and thoroughly watchable basketball player? Yes, yes, and yes.
Gasaway: Michael Gbinije. In a long and winding career that started as a national top-30 freshman at Duke, the senior has played just 37 minutes total in the NCAA tournament. He wants more.
Daily Word: Can NC State end Duke's ACC tourney run early?
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