When: Wednesday 9pm
Where: Raleigh, NC
I'm still trying to figure out how Clemson won that game on Saturday. That one made the last football game against Syracuse look like a work of art. I guess a win is a win and that one just had to be secured to keep this season on life support. Now the team has to travel to Raleigh to take on a very capable NCST team in hopes of offsetting the bad home loss to Florida State. One thing is for sure, if the shooting is anything like we've seen the last two games that certainly won't happen.
Overview: While the Tigers were pulling victory out of the jaws of defeat on Saturday, the Wolfpack blew a great chance at a second win over a top 10 team this year when they terribly mismanaged the last few moments of regulation after having the ball up 2 points. If you didn't see it, the Pack just needed to get the ball in and get fouled, but tried to throw deep on the press and knocked the ball out of bounds. Notre Dame then got a chance for the last possession and got not one, not two, not three, but FOUR offensive rebounds before putting up the game tying shot near the buzzer. Clemson fans need to hope the 'Pack will be reeling from that game enough to let the guard down on Wednesday night.
Brad Brownell is trying to shake some things up in an effort to discover some form of consistency from the team. He elected to put Harrison and Nnoko on the bench to start the Wake game after both had been nearly invisible for much of the recent stretch of games. Of course, that meant starting two guys from the under-performing bench in Jordan Roper and Sidy Djitte. It worked a little in that Roper had one of his better games of the season and Nnoko was more active than he'd been in a while coming off the bench. However, Harrison was even worse against Wake than against FSU and has begun to look like a one trick pony on offense. If he's hitting three's he's fine, but otherwise he isn't giving the team much punch on offense. He needs to get back to playing at the level he was earlier in the year if this team is going to contend for a spot in the top 8 of the league.
I was shocked at the stat about Austin Ajukwa going five league games without a basket before hitting that three-pointer against Wake. He has to rank as the biggest disappointment of the year after showing some real promise at the end of last year and the opportunity created by the early departure of K.J. McDaniels. Ajukwa simply hasn't taken advantage of that at all.
Meet the Wolfpack: NCST lost ACC player of the year T.J. Warren early but has offset some of that loss with the addition of Alabama transfer Trevor Lacey who became eligible after sitting out last season. Lacey has been very good for the 'Pack as a scorer and playmaker. He's putting up 16.5 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 3.4 assists. He's been a good three point shooter coming in at 41.7%. Rod Hall will have his hands full trying to keep Lacey under wraps. NCST struggled from the three-point line most of last year outside of Ralston Turner. Now NCST is shooting it at a solid 37% as a team and Turner gives them another weapon at over 40% from distance. Talent is not really the issue for the 'Pack as they have shown in flashes during the season. They should have beaten Notre Dame and they did beat Duke earlier in the season. They can score the basketball and are averaging 72.3 points per game. To put that in perspective, the Tigers have equaled or eclipsed 72 points just twice all season. I think it goes without saying that Clemson must hold the 'Pack to 63 or less to have a legitimate shot at a win.
The 'Pack are a decent rebounding team and an above average shot blocking squad. They are led defensively by big Beejay Anya who is leading the league in blocked shots. Anya is packing a listed 300 pounds, so it will be vital for Landry Nnoko and Sidy Djitte to avoid silly fouls so they can remain in the game to match up there. Josh Smith just gives up too much size to Anya in my opinion. The good news is he is not the offensive weapon that Wake's Devin Thomas is. Anthony Barber is the third leading scorer for State at 10.4 points a game, but he has struggled lately and hasn't gone for double figures since the December 30th loss to Cincinnati. Of course, now that I've said that I'm sure he'll go off on Wednesday...
Outlook: This is not a totally unwinnable game because the 'Pack are prone to underachievement, but the team will have to play at the level seen at Pitt and against Syracuse to have a realistic shot. The garbage we have seen on the offensive end the last two games will result in a loss, likely by double figures.
Jaron Blossomgame is due for a big outing after a couple of tough games and Damarcus Harrison is past due to play well. Rod Hall needs to at least play level with Lacey and the Tigers must control the tempo. If NCST is allowed to get out and run, the Tigers simply don't have the same level of offensive talent to keep up. KenPom's rankings are currently a little hard to figure as the Tigers are 3-4 in the ACC yet trail Boston College, Georgia Tech, and Wake Forest in their rankings. They are giving Clemson a 15% shot at winning this game which sounds about right to me.
And I would be remiss without a good clip on this article, so since watching this year's team try to score has been depressing, I thought this would work...