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Hoops Preview: Clemson vs. Winthrop

Tigers looks to get to 2-0 to start 2014-2015.

Landry Nnoko must break you
Landry Nnoko must break you
Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

When: Tonight at 7pm

Where: Littlejohn Coliseum


Overview: We won't dive too deeply into the lighter opponents on the schedule for the previews.  However, it should be said that Winthrop will be significantly better than the FAMU Rattlers, who brought an entirely new roster into Clemson from the year before.  This game will show any cracks in the armor that might exist with the team at this point, though the Tigers should ride their normally stout defense to victory.  At any rate, if you are like me, you need some Clemson victories of any kind to help get past the debacle in Bobby Dodd.  Kudos to the soccer team for starting the process on Sunday.

Winthrop guys to watch: The Eagles are led by senior guards Keon Moore and Andre Smith.  Moore is coming off a 25 point, 8 rebound opening game and averaged 14 points a game last year.  He is a quality guard with good size and will no doubt be the focus of the Tiger defensive efforts.  Smith is the point guard and posted an impressive 8 assists in the opener for Winthrop over Pfeiffer.  He also averaged double figures last season at 10.1 ppg.  He is giving up size and strength to Rod Hall and will no doubt find the going much tougher tonight than in the opener.  These two logged the most minutes by far of any Eagle in the opener and are the most experienced guys they have.  Keon Johnson is a small and quick sophomore guard who has garnered some preseason praise for the Eagles as well.  The inside game is led by Jarad Scott who is 6'8" and pulled down a team high 10 boards in game #1.  He is new to the rotation this season after only logging 9.4 minutes a game as a freshman in 2013-14.  Another forward logging minutes is bouncy Tevin Prescott out of Hartsville.  Prescott, like most of the Eagle front line, is undersized for a forward at 6'5" and 180 pounds.  Like most mid-major programs, the Eagles have guard play that is comparable to most of major basketball but have a disadvantage in size and strength inside.  It will be very difficult for the Eagles to handle the likes of Landry Nnoko inside and I would expect some sagging man to man or zones to try to combat the superior Tiger front line.

Overall: Many Tiger fans will recall Winthrop's glory days under now Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall.  The Eagles came to Littlejohn during the Shyatt era and slapped a loss on the Tigers.  Last season, the Eagles were one win away from the NCAA tourney when they lost to Cliff Ellis and Coastal Carolina in the Big South final after winning both regular season meetings with Coastal.  They do return 4 starters and the Big South has already seen Charleston Southern go to Ole Miss and win, so there are some quality teams in that league that can make you pay for a substandard effort.  However, the Tigers are not a youth ridden team.  Clemson returns 4 starters as well and play the kind of defense that makes pulling upsets against it much more difficult.  The Tigers don't rely on shooting a high percentage to be dangerous.  Winthrop will likely keep the game close for a bit, but I expect the superior size and depth of the Tigers to eventually wear them down and lead to a 15-20 point victory.