When: Saturday, 4 p.m.
Where: Edmund P. Joyce Center, South Bend, Ind.
If you watched Clemson vs. Notre Dame back on February 10th, you had to be impressed with Jerian Grant, the younger brother of former Tiger Jerai Grant. Jerian is a 6'5" wing player, and if memory serves me well, he has a beautiful fade-away jumper. He scored 22 points while shooting .500 from the floor and 1.000 from the free throw line. He also had 5 assists and 3 steals, quite the night.
Even still, Clemson controlled the game and held the lead until the offense went dry in the final three minutes and the defense couldn't hang on. Blossomgame had 17 points and 14 rebounds in that game, but Roper and Grantham combined for just two points.
Notre Dame is ranked 12th in the AP and 16th in KenPom. Clemson has three KenPom top 50 wins in LSU (44), Arkansas (29) and NC State (41), but Notre Dame would be the season's marquee victory. While the Tigers are most likely headed for a No. 4-6 seed in the NIT regardless of the outcome, a win could go a long way in helping Clemson host an NIT game (No. 4 seed is needed) and avoid the loss to NC State being the final game in "Littlejohn as we know it."
Additionally, a win would push Clemson to 17 on the season and make reaching the 20-win mark much more attainable with a win or two in the ACC tournament and the same in the NIT. Sitting at 8-9 in the ACC, it would also even up the Tigers' conference record.
The Tigers are currently tied for 9th in the conference with Pittsburgh who finish up against Florida State. A Clemson win over Notre Dame would put Clemson in a tie for 8th place with the loser of the NC State-Syracuse game. A loss would either keep Clemson at 9th or drop them to 10th depending on the outcome of Pitt's final game. Of course, because of Syracuse's self-imposed (though the NCAA has crushed their program as well) sanctions, they will not participate in the conference tournament so Clemson is guaranteed a first round bye and a seeding somewhere between 7th and 9th.
To come away with a win in the regular season finale, Clemson will need to be extremely successful on the glass. Following what was nearly a full half without a field goal, Clemson's offense needs all the help they can get and second chances are the most obvious way. Based on KenPom's tempo-free stats, one of the few weaknesses for the Fighting Irish is rebounding, where they rank 141st (defensive) and 268th (offensive). They only grab 28.4% of offensive rebounding opportunities (268th) compared to Clemson's 33.5% (97th). Last time Clemson faced Notre Dame, the Tigers out-rebounded them 38-26 - most notably 13-7 on the offensive glass. If Clemson does not win the rebounding battle, it will struggle to be competitive.
Additionally, the Tigers need either Grantham or Roper to have a big offensive day. Blossomgame carried the load in the previous matchup, but a shooter is going to have to step up.
KenPom gives Clemson a 12% chance, which given Clemson's 2-5 skid down the stretch seems fair. At 3 p.m., Clemson will also be looking to go up 2-0 in their baseball series at NC State, so get ready for some great two screen viewing and check back for basketball postgame articles from Mark Gordon and Caleb Davis.