Many long time Clemson fans would have (and have had) an interesting debate on the worst screw jobs suffered by the Tigers from the Atlantic Coast Conference. Long and distinguished are the examples in both football and basketball over the years, such as the clock fiasco against Maryland in the 80s in football or at Cameron Indoor Stadium (where they had a chance to review the play and STILL screwed us) during the OP era. However, if you really look closely at the Clemson Tigers 2013-14 conference schedule, it easily has to rank among the top hose jobs ever. The brutality has already begun, as the Tigers have to follow up the physical grind of playing FSU with just 2 days of prep for a totally different animal in the Duke Blue Devils (who, coincidentally, have enjoyed 2 additional preparation days). Tim Bourret rattled of the statistic last night on radio that teams with that discrepancy in preparation time are winning at about "a 5 percent" clip. This doesn't factor in the well known fact that Duke has a superior roster of players and perhaps the best player in the land in Jabari Parker. Later on there is the ridiculous, and I mean ridiculous, 5 out of 6 road game stretch which includes major deathtrap venues such as Pitt, ND, FSU, Syracuse, and the ultimate Tiger deathtrap...UNC. If I were Dan Radakovich, I would be rattling my sabre hard about this deal and expecting some kind of concession in either next year's schedule or for football.
Some Tiger fans might just roll their eyes and say we didn't or don't have a shot in basketball anyway, but this particular team (last night notwithstanding) could legitimately get to the middle of the pack in the league this year (which will be very important to reach the NIT, a good goal for this year's squad). However, it is going to be a very difficult task when you look at this gauntlet and other goodies thrown in like the quick turnaround for this Duke game. Momentum matters in basketball, and confidence matters in basketball. Last year's team wasn't good, but the losing streak down the stretch featured several games the team had a chance to win and didn't. Once you lose two or three of those, it becomes a bigger struggle to pull out a game later on. A veteran team like Miami had last year might be able to somewhat navigate this schedule and stay afloat, but it will be a masterful coaching job by Brad and his staff if our young roster with NO seniors can keep plugging away if they go 1-5 or 0-6 in that stretch. Well, enough of that rant and on to the preview.
We have heard the predictable "it can be a good thing" about the quick turnaround for Saturday's game coming out of Clemson, but there is no way it is. The "we played terrible and need to get back out there" deal might hold some weight if you took out the importance of being able to adequately adjust your schemes to deal with what the opponent is bringing in. How are you going to handle ball screens? What set plays are particularly dangerous and need extra work? How do you adjust your offense to the way the opponent guards? How are you going to account for a sure fire lottery pick talent in Jabari Parker? These things are just drawn up in the sand or on a white board in a timeout and executed correctly at this level, they take time and reps to get done right. Clemson hasn't really had to deal with a guy you have to double consistently all year, now they are. That changes everything in terms of who is going to double and how you rotate out of the double teams you employ. Duke, for instance, has had two extra days to work out a way to lock up KJ McDaniels. Let's hope Clemson's basic defensive principles will be adequate enough to keep us in the game.
I've already mentioned Parker a few times. For those of you who might not have seen him or heard about him yet, be prepared for an absolute stud. Imagine Trevor Booker as a senior with an extra inch of height and the skill set of KC Rivers. If you did that you'd be getting close to what Parker brings to the table for Duke. I shutter at the thought of a Josh Smith or Jaron Blossomgame trying to check this guy man to man by himself. Hence the earlier talk about double teams, which will be absolutely necessary in the half court against Parker in my opinion. The trouble with doubling Parker in the post is now you have the usual multiple 3 point threats that Duke traditionally brings to the table. The Blue Devils are shooting better than 40% from 3 as a TEAM. That is ridiculous when you figure the volume of attempts they usually have. Just for comparison, Clemson has only one guy who has bested that 41+% team 3 point percentage from Duke...the recently departed Devin Coleman who was at a shade over 43%. It will be a tremendous defensive performance to keep Duke under 70 points.
If there is good news heading into this game, it is that Duke is not playing elite defense. They can be scored on and driven on, so the Tiger guards and KJ should have a much better time around the rim than Thursday night vs. FSU. It will be extremely important for the Tigers to protect the ball and make every possession count if they can. Hopefully it will be a raucous crowd in Littlejohn and the Tigers can play well enough to keep the crowd into the game. A win against Duke is always about as sweet as it gets, and quite frankly the Tigers desperately need a shot in the arm performance to generate momentum before that murderer's row stretch of the schedule coming up.
Duke wins if: It plays an average game offensively and doesn't turn it over more than 13 times. Clemson needs help in this matchup in the form of turnovers and sub par shooting from 3 to have a real shot at winning.
Clemson wins if: The Tigers are able to generate turnovers that can lead to some easy baskets and do a good job holding Duke to one shot attempt during the course of the evening. It will also be imperative for Roper, Hall, and Filer to win the matchup with the Duke perimeter guys because the Hood/Parker combination inside is significantly better than what Clemson has to offer in the paint. Getting either in foul trouble would be nice.
Please check out our Q&A with Duke Report, and feel free to use the comments below as the game thread.