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Tudor: NC State will beat Miami if ...

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Veteran sports writer Caulton Tudor is writing for WNCN.com in tournament play. Here is his analysis of N.C. State so far:

N.C. State will beat top-seeded Miami in Saturday's ACC Tournament semifinals if:

• Wolfpack forward Richard Howell can be at full strength after suffering a bruised right thigh in Friday's surprisingly easy 75-56 win over Virginia.

Howell is always a key for State (24-9) but against Miami's huge, deep frontline, there's no way for the Pack to survive and reach Sunday's championship game in Greensboro unless the big senior can go his usual 30-36 minutes.

Howell returned to the game Friday after the injury but the leg will stiffen overnight and with a 1 p.m. start against the Hurricanes (25-6), there will not be a lot of time for doctors and trainers to help Howell get the leg loose.

• C.J. Leslie comes through with another performance similar to his two in the tourney thus far.

Against the Cavaliers (21-11), Leslie forced a few too many shots in the lane but that was his only flaw.

With 17 points, 11 rebounds and three blocked shots, the junior forward was a positive factor throughout. And by scoring the team's first five points, he set a winning tone for everyone.

• Scott Wood (23 points, four rebounds) can continue to find his shots.

The senior wingman didn't get voted to the All-ACC teams but he's squarely in the chase -- along with teammates Lorenzo Brown, Leslie and Howell -- for the tournament Everett Case Award.

• The defense against Miami playmaker Shane Larkin is effective.

The Hurricanes were on their way home Friday against Boston College until Larkin (20 points, four assists) took over the offense by himself and finally broke down the Eagles' match-up zone.

Larkin normally ends with seven or more assists in close games, but the BC zone snarled the Canes' inside attack and there was no way out except through Larkin's outside shooting.

• The officials do not take over the game.

With such a overwhelming depth advantage, it only makes sense that Miami coach Jim Larranaga would prefer a game of attrition, meaning lots of contact and lots of whistles. The Canes can absorb a lot of fouls. State cannot.

 

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