Where: The Joel in Winston-Salem
OUTLOOK: Clemson has gotten on a roll having won two straight games after surviving the Road to Perdition stretch of the schedule. Meanwhile, Wake Forest is in a free fall having lost seven straight with five of those by double figures, including Saturday's 105-72 pummeling at the hands of the Tarholes. Jeff Bzdelik could very well be on his way out even with his BFF as the AD in Winston-Salem. The natives there are no doubt restless, especially since the Jim Grobe era took a dive and Wake returned to its usual place in the football pecking order. Wake is a proud basketball school and looking up to the likes of the Tigers and others in the standings does not sit well in Winston-Salem.
FIRST GAME: Looking back at the first meeting between WF and Clemson, the Tigers took home a 61-53 victory behind 15 points, 7 boards, and 4 blocks from K.J. McDaniels. Jordan Roper was the other Tiger in double figures with 11. The thing that kept Wake in the game was offensive rebounding as they pulled down 14 offensive boards. Clemson did a great job limiting leading scorer Codi Miller-McIntyre to 6 points while K.J. McDaniels dominated his matchup with Travis McKie. Tyler Cavanaugh was the only Deac starter in double figures with 12. Backup point guard Coron Williams added 13 points and was actually much more efficient than Miller-McIntyre that night with a rating of 162 to M-M's 56.
THIS TIME: The Deacs are on a slide similar to what Clemson experienced last year. When things like this happen, it sometimes doesn't take much to take the life out of you and you tend to fold like a cheap tent down the stretch in tight games. Clemson absolutely cannot let Wake off the mat here. The Deacs have been much stronger at home this year and the Tigers need to put together an effort like the second half in Atlanta in order to give Wake a reason to quit. Let Wake get running early on and it could turn into a dog fight to the end. It might be a good time for Brownell and staff to dust off the Auburn film to remind the guys what can happen if you let a bad team with a couple of nice players get some confidence. Considering Wake's overall dominance in this series and especially at the Joel, it seems strange to expect a victory here, but the times they are a changin' and the Tigers are quite simply the better team right now. All Wake can hope for is to spoil the postseason hopes of a team or two (like ours). They are locked in to the first round of the ACC tourney and have no postseason hopes short of a miraculous run to the tourney title which should send fans of Wake and Clemson alike to their local churches to get right with the Lord because the Judgement would surely be coming.
KEYS TO VICTORY: The Tigers should feel very good about their ability to control the pace of the game. Getting more good work out of Nnoko and Harrison should all but assure victory. Wake, like just about everybody, will have its hands full trying to keep K.J. McDaniels under wraps and the opportunities will once again be there for a supporting cast guy to have a good game. The Tigers need to do a better job on the defensive glass and try to keep Wake's offensive rebounds under 10 if at all possible. Wake is at its best when it can get out and run and Miller-McIntyre is able to slash to the rim. Taking care of the ball and getting numbers back on defense are therefore very important (though this can be said of all games).
Brad Brownell said he expects to "see a team that's a little bit angry" given Wake's 105-72 loss in the Dean Dome. It'll be interesting to see if the Deacons come out "angry" or looking like a team that has "called it quits" and is looking forward to a new coach.
KenPom gives Clemson a healthy 59% chance of winning the game, which is an excellent number for a road matchup. We'll say get to 65 points and/or get 3 guys in double figures and this is a win all day long.