Where: Littlejohn Coliseum
When: Tuesday 9pm
Overview: Not much time for Clemson and its fans to shake off the heartbreak of having Duke shoot some gift horse free throws to beat the Tigers and end the hopes of an NCAA tourney bid. Georgia State comes in with the automatic bid from winning the Sun Belt Conference with an impressive 17-1 mark. They dealt with heartbreak of their own in their tournament championship with an OT loss to U. LA LA. Here is a quick look into what Georgia State has to offer.
Georgia State prefers an up tempo approach much more than the Tigers and have some impressive offensive statistics to back up that choice. KenPom has the Panthers at 26th in offensive efficiency and #1 in the nation in turnover avoidance. They are putting up 77.9 points per game, good for 36th in the country, and have four guys averaging double figure scoring. Their coach's son, R.J. Hunter, is a very good player who is averaging over 18 points per game and can shoot the 3 well at just under 40%. It will be important for Clemson to handle him first and foremost. They also sport the well traveled Ryan Harrow who was a five star prospect that started at NCSU, transferred to Kentucky, and has since landed at Georgia State. He is putting up 17.9 points and 4.3 assists per game. Rod Hall and Adonis Filer will need to do a good job slowing Harrow down, who is clearly a very talented guy. The Panthers also have former Virginia Tech wing Manny Atkins who is no stranger to ACC level competition. Simply put, Georgia State has some dudes that can play and is not your normal mid major opponent in that regard.
The good news (and why the Tigers are favored in this matchup) is that Clemson touts an elite defensive unit and can rebound well. The Panthers really don't rebound the ball well at all (309th in the nation) and are 295th in offensive rebounding percentage. That means the chances should be good Clemson can hold the Panthers to one shot most of the night and that will help keep them well under that 78 points per game. The question for the Panthers is how will they handle the physicality of the Tigers and the defensive athleticism that quite frankly they just don't see at all in the Sun Belt Conference. Whichever team can dictate tempo will have a great chance at victory, and it is a rare occasion indeed when Clemson hasn't been able to slow the tempo down to its liking.
K.J. McDaniels not being 100% is a major concern for the Tigers. He is going to probably have to guard both Atkins and Hunter who can both score the ball. Damarcus Harrison is going to need to bring a great defensive effort as well, which he is capable of. Even still, I would give the edge to Georgia State on the perimeter. Landry Nnoko is the major X-factor in this one for the Tigers. We've seen Landry get more and more confident and assertive in 2014 and he will need to dominate the Panthers inside. He and Blossomgame have a real chance to do the type of damage they did against Duke in the first game. Where Georgia State is like a mid-major is in the paint and the bench where they are not very deep and don't rebound well. They are currently 344th in bench minutes according to KenPom. We'll see how the officiating is, but if Clemson can get them in some foul trouble, it really favors the Tigers.
Hopefully a decent crowd will show up for this one considering the students are out. The weekday tip makes folks like me down in the Charleston area stuck to watching it on TV. Things are looking good for a deep run in this tournament if the Tigers can handle business in the first game. KenPom gives the Tigers a 68% winning percentage.