Editor's Note: This article was written by ElTigre09
Once again, it’s time for the ACC/B1G Challenge. Clemson doesn't play until Wednesday night at 7:15 (ESPNU), but the challenge kicks off tonight. The B1G has taken over the top 25 in the early dawn of this season, while the preseason favorites from the ACC have looked less than stellar. But don’t count the ACC out just yet, as the next two days will be a special display of strength vs. strength. If for no other reason, you should follow these games just to see how the polls are affected. The B1G currently has 5 top-25 teams, with 3 teams filling 3 of the top 4 spots. The ACC also has a top-5 team in Duke, while UNC and N.C. State have landed in the mid-teens.
Tuesday night has two big matchups in #18 N.C. State @ #3 Michigan at 7:30pm and #15 UNC @ #1 Indiana at 9:30pm, both on ESPN. Also, if you get bored watching Michigan trounce the Puppies, Maryland @ Northwestern (7:15 on ESPN2) should be a good match-up. Honestly, the only really exciting game on Wednesday night (other than ours, of course) is the marquee game on ESPN. #2 Duke and #4 OSU are likely both on track to go deep into the Tourney this season (fingers crossed for another Lehigh-esque 2nd round upset). This game will be a close one and could go either way, but don’t be surprised if Coach K rallies the troops to a W at home against a solid Buckeye corps.
But let’s move on the game that we really care about on Wednesday, Purdue @ Clemson. Purdue and Clemson have had very similar storylines heading into this season. Both teams are consistently middle-of-the-packers in their respective conferences, with Purdue regularly ending up just outside of the B1G leaders, whereas Clemson has fought hard just to stay out of the bottom crust. The Boilermakers have 7 underclassmen out of 11 players on the roster, while the Tigers have a whopping 10 out of 12. Coach Painter and Coach Brownell both had solid recruiting classes in 2012. And both coaches consistently have teams that are solid defensively but can struggle shooting from the perimeter.
Last season, tenth-seed Purdue ended with a close loss to second-seed Kansas in the 3rd round, a Kansas team that advanced all the way to the final game but lost to Kentucky. However, 3 of Purdue’s top 4 players from last season are gone, including incredible Forward, Robbie Hummel. However, these players have been replaced by a group of solid freshmen, led by true Center A.J. Hammons, a guy who comes in at 7’, 275 lbs, and who was one of the top Centers in the 2012 recruiting cycle. Also joining Purdue is Ronnie Johnson (brother to Junior Guard Tyrone Johnson of Purdue), who is the only true point guard on the roster and who, in high school, competed against the likes of Indiana’s Kevin Ferrell and Michigan State’s Gary Harris.
Purdue has struggled to produce a deep threat, but what they lack in perimeter shooting, they make up for in the paint. D.J. Byrd, A.J. Hammons, and Donnie Hale are big and powerful, and are three of the top-five scorers so far this season. Around the perimeter, the Johnsons (Tyrone, Ronnie, and Anthony) are not only solid ball-handlers and shooters, but are also solid defenders and good rebounders.
Both Clemson and Purdue are young and looking to have a rebuilding year this season. So far this season, Purdue has gone 2-3, losing close ones to Bucknell, ‘Nova, and Oregon St. All three schools will likely make Tournament appearances of one form or another this season, which shows that Purdue is ready to compete this season, but just doesn’t have the extra oomph to pull out the W. So while Clemson has the better record at 4-1, Purdue has definitely had stiffer competition and has looked pretty good even in their losses.
Wednesday night, we can expect Purdue’s size and strength down low to give our big guys fits. This will be one of the biggest teams we see all season, so don’t be surprised if Devin and Milton are getting tossed around like rag dolls. Purdue will out-rebound us, and could possibly get up to 2:1 combined Off. & Def. boards. However, Purdue has not shown an advantage from 3 compared to Clemson so far this season. This will be a hard fought defensive game, similar to Gonzaga last week. Both teams will have to fight hard for points.
Purdue and Clemson have similar talent levels at this point. Matt Painter is a very good coach and instills toughness in his players and has done a very good job over the years in developing players. They’re going to be physical with us, both with their guards and their big men, so this game will be a good barometer for Clemson’s toughness. I’ve wanted to see more toughness out of this team for a couple of years now, so in that regard I’m eager to see how our guys respond.
Neither team has really established themselves thus far, so it really is difficult to say who will come away with a win. Both teams are very young and are still trying to find their identity, so there is still a lot of hope for Clemson in this match-up. Most importantly, a Clemson win here builds momentum into the SCar game, a game that the Tigers need to win to start rebuilding pride among the Clemson faithful.