When: 9PM EST, Raycom (oh joy)
Current RPI: Clemson #35, Maryland #32.
Since falling to Clemson earlier in a hideous game 62-53, Maryland has continued to impress and has gone 5-1, losing only to Duke 77-56. They've shot better than 42% in each victory, while their defense continues to average around 37% allowed, best in the ACC. Kenpom ranks them the 5th best nationally in effective FG pct. defense and 24th in defensive efficiency. Marylands offense has been similarly impressive and ranks 15th in offensive efficiency, has done fair on the glass, and hasn't turned the ball over anywhere near as much as they did against us. Vasquez recently collected his 3rd ACC PoW honor this year after averaging averaging 24.7 points, 5.7 rebounds and 6.3 assists in victories over Virginia, N.C. State and Georgia Tech, as well as nabbing ESPN PoW honors.
The turtles are 13-1 at home this year, and 6-0 in conference, but just 2-6 against RPI top 50 teams (Clemson is 6-3).
But Clemson's defense is no slouch, ranking 4th in efficiency, 6th in turnovers and steals. On our current streak though, its not been the defense that has been most impressive. We've shot much better lately and will need to continue that on the road if we hope to make it to 9-7 in the ACC. Tanner Smith punked out Vasquez on defense last time and now it will likely be Stitt's turn to do so. Trevor Booker will need to have a good game against Jordan Williams after missing his first 12 shots last time (suffering flu), and the defense as a whole will need to hold a high tempo press on Maryland, who could not handle it last time around.
Purnell had this to say in his presser about the Tigers' status right now.
"We're a good basketball team. I don't think there's any question about that," he said. "But we want to be a great basketball team. And to do that, you've got to go out on the road and win. That's a good test for you, to say you are that.
"Nothing wrong with being a pretty good basketball team; I'd just like to be a great one.
"What we're trying to do is get back to our best basketball going into March," Purnell said. "We had an opportunity to do that because of this home stand, but now you got to go out on the road and try to get a couple."
"One of the reasons we're playing pretty well right now is because we've got all hands on deck, and everybody is pretty healthy," Purnell said. "How many bubbles can you be on at one time?" Purnell joked. "Obviously it's important. That gives you a legitimate shot at winning the tournament, particularly this year with so much balance. If you're not in that top-four thing, it's a tall order. You have to have a Herculean effort in order to win. If you're in that top four, you win a game and you're in the semifinals against teams that quite possibly you've already beaten.
"It'd be a nice situation to be on one of those spots, and there are a lot of teams fighting for those."
LW points out that Clemson is 1-4 in conference road games thus far, the lone victory having come at N.C. State. The Wolfpack are ranked 116th in the most recent RPI approximations, so a poor road record could end up being the biggest strike against the Tigers' NCAA candidacy.
Jerai Grant's recent explosion offensively has really taken some of the onus off TBook. It looks like he finally listened to his uncle Horace and Assistant Ron Bradley. His dad Harvey will be in attendance tonight for the first time since Jerai's freshman year.
Jerai knows Horace's message well now. Be confident. Stay aggressive.
"Those words are truer than any I've heard," Jerai said. "Stay aggressive, that's when I'm at my best."
After middling freshman and sophomore seasons at Clemson, Jerai has acted on Horace's advice and enjoyed a breakout year, playing with more confidence and decisiveness, looking more like a member of the Grant bloodline.
"For the last six or seven games, he's been at an even higher level," Clemson's coach said of Grant's breakout year. "Basically, he's getting us 13 to 14 points and close to double-figure rebounds every night. But what he is really doing a good job of is plugging up the middle for us defensively. He's changing shots."
Game 1 key factors: Maryland didn't score a single point over the final 3:23
Since Game 1, a few critical components: