Coach K looking like his usual angry self - USA TODAY Sports
The Tigers travel to Cameron Indoor tonight for a date with the number-one ranked Blue Devils. Brownell and crew will say all the right things heading into the game, but I think we can all agree that Clemson faces long odds in this one. The undefeated Blue Devils have far exceeded their preseason expectations thus far en route to a 14-0 start, while the Tigers have done nothing to dispel the preseason notion that they will struggle to hit the .500 mark in conference.
Duke is the number-one team in the country for a reason: before pummeling Wake Forest on Saturday to open up their ACC season, Duke completed an undefeated non-conference slate that included wins over Kentucky, Louisville, and Ohio State.The Blue Devils sit atop the RPI rankings. The Tigers, on the other hand, currently have an RPI of 193 (out of 347). Simply put, the Devils are the better team in tonight's game.
Duke is once again one of the best 3-point shooting teams in the country. As a group, they shoot 42.1 percent from beyond the arc. The Tigers don't have a real go-to scorer, but the Devils don't have that problem, as they've got five guys that shoot at least 38% from 3: starters Seth Curry (41%), Ryan Kelly (50%), Rasheed Sulaimon (39%), Quinn Cook (44%); and 6th man Tyler Thornton (40%).
And don't forget that the Devils' 5th starter, Mason Plumlee, is considered by many as a frontrunner for national player of the year awards. It will be interesting to see how Booker and Milton deal with Duke's height in the frontcourt, with Plumlee at 6-10 and Kelly at 6-11. Booker did a good job of rebounding against Florida State's height inside, but he will really have to step it up if he wants to record a double-double facing off against arguably the best frontcourt in the conference.
The Devil's 80.1 ppg is the 13th highest rate in the country; The Tigers, by comparison, sit at 200th nationally with a rate of 66.6 ppg. Defending Duke on the exterior will be an important key to tonight's game. We're coming off of a game against FSU where the ‘Noles shot 10 of 23 from outside. We have to do a better job of defending the exterior and hope that the Devils have an off shooting night. It would also be nice to see if Devin can step it up inside against the toughest of competition.
Many are probably expecting a blowout in the game tonight, and while that's a real possibility, I think the Tigers have a good chance of keeping this one close for at least a while. We've played two top-ten teams this year in Arizona and Gonzaga, and we played both close for about 30 minutes before ultimately falling short in the end. I can see a similar scenario playing out in tonight's contest. The guys will be amped to play against a big-time opponent and will hopefully come out swinging. But even if we somehow manage to keep the game close for 40 minutes, we don't have much of a chance at pulling off the upset. You don't have to look very far to find evidence of our ineptitude in clutch situations. Anyone that saw the end of the FSU game just three days back can certainly attest to that.
Game tips at 7 on ESPNU.