Before we get to basketball... WE DID IT! We beat arguably the best coach of all-time despite him wielding the most raw talent in college football. We overcome a 14-point deficit, unfortunate missed calls, and won. We trailed with two minutes to go and had the greatest drive in school history against one of the best defenses in modern college football history. We are the champions. I honestly don’t know what to do next, but I’ve been browsing all the articles about how great we are and plan to set aside some time to re-watch the entire title game in the next few days.
If you’d like to read a sentimental piece about why winning meant so much (written before the game), check out my personal musings here. Alas, in an effort to bathe in all things Clemson, I’m headed to GT to watch Clemson battle the Yellow Jackets on Thursday at 7pm. Here’s what I’ll be watching for.
Where: Hank McCammish Pavilion, Atlanta, GA
The Opportunity: KenPom shows this trip to Atlanta as Clemson’s easiest ACC road game (we get BC and NCSU at home). It’s all relative in the ACC where the 12 of Clemson’s remaining conference games come against KenPom top 60 opponents. It may be hyperbole to call this a must-win, but a loss would be three straight with Virginia and Louisville coming up. A five-game skid would sap fan enthusiasm (I mean, we just won a National Championship in football, there’s nothing more we can want from sports for a while). Such a losing streak would also hurt the team’s momentum and confidence - not to mention put them behind the eight-ball as far as bracketology is concerned.
The Opponent: Georgia Tech is struggling to replace Marcus Georges-Hunt, their star player, and Adam Smith, their three-point sharp shooter. Without them, they’ve fallen from the 38th most efficient offense a season ago to the 262nd. They shoot very few three-pointers and are inaccurate when they do.
Defensively, they’re solid. They block shots (6th in the nation in Block%) and defend the paint. Ben Lammers has been a major contributor in the post. Standing at 6’10”, the native Texan averages nearly 15 points and 10 rebounds per game.
Josh Okogie, a freshman, is another player to watch. The shooting guard scored 26 points in the Yellow Jackets home upset over the Tar Heels.
Prediction: The Yellow Jackets proved they are dangerous by beating VCU (OT) on the road and UNC at home. The Tigers need to improve on the defensive glass. While they’re a quality offensive rebounding team, they have been horrendous on the other end - allowing opponents to get offensive rebounds on 35% of their opportunities. Limiting second chances for GT’s weak offense will be critical. Seeing improvement in this area would not only help win this game, but offer optimism moving forward.
I’ll be watching the post to see how Blossomgame, Djitte, and Eli Thomas play. Specifically, I want to see if they show improvement on the boards. Blossomgame has regressed somewhat in his defensive rebounding. On offense, he’s shown improved post-moves and as a result has seen his two-point field goal percentage increase, but he still isn’t making three-pointers at a reasonable clip. Going against quality big men, we’ll want to see quality play from our post-players to counter.
Everything is going right for us Clemson fans. A loss wouldn’t stop the joy, but I don’t think we’ll have to face that. The Tigers are the better team and following two losses won’t be looking past anybody. ACC road games are tough, but the Tigers should be expected to win (77% KenPom).