Following a stout defensive performance that fueled a 64-49 victory over the Georgia Bulldogs in the semifinal round of the Grand Cayman Classic, the Clemson Tigers men’s basketball team now finds the Creighton Bluejays standing between them and the tournament title. The championship game is set for 7:30 EST on Wednesday. A victory would be a great way for the Tigers to head into Thanksgiving before they return to action against Nebraska at Littlejohn Coliseum on Monday, Nov. 26.
With respect to Creighton, coach Greg McDermott’s squad had no trouble dispatching the Georgia State Panthers by a final score of 93-68, moving their record to 4-1 (the lone loss being a 69-60 decision versus Ohio State).
In a complete betrayal of geographic considerations, Omaha, Nebraska-based Creighton has been a member of the de-cluttered Big East Conference since the 2013-14 season and boasts several NBA alumni, including Doug McDermott (coach Greg’s son) and Kyle Korver. They have made the NCAA tournament in each of the past two seasons and in five of the past seven, dating back to their Missouri Valley Conference days. Clemson has only faced off against Creighton one time, and the result was an 87-67 loss in 1962. Thankfully for the Tigers, that means nothing beyond serving as a semi-interesting tidbit I just shared with you.
Creighton’s starting lineup*, based on the Georgia State game, projects as follows:
- G - Davion Mintz (Jr.) - 6-foot-3, 185 pounds; 9.3 PPG, 4.0 RPG
- G - Ty-Shon Alexander (So.) - 6-foot-4, 195 pounds; 16.5 PPG, 3.8 RPG
- G - Mitch Ballock (So.) - 6-foot-5, 205 pounds; 9.0 PPG, 4.0 APG
- F - Damien Jefferson (So.) - 6-foot-5, 200 pounds; 10.0 PPG, 6.0 RPG
- F - Martin Krampelj (Jr.) - 6-foot-9, 235 pounds; 7.0 PPG, 4.8 RPG
Ballock led the way for the Jays against Georgia State, pouring in 23 points thanks in large part to six three-point baskets. He finished the contest 6-for-12 from deep. Clemson will have to do what it can with its perimeter defense to mitigate any chance of Ballock catching fire from the outside once again.
Fellow sophomore guard Ty-Shon Alexander is another threat from three-point country, as he is shooting at an impressive 44.4-percent clip from beyond the arc so far this season. He hit double-figures with 13 points against the Panthers, while forward Damien Jefferson scored 20 points on incredibly efficient 9-for-10 shooting from the field.
Creighton’s offense will present a bit of a different challenge from Georgia’s in that they are more dangerous from the outside and do not sacrifice much in terms of efficiency; per KenPom, they rank 24th in the country in adjusted offensive efficiency with a mark of 111.4. Their adjusted defensive efficiency is lower at 58th in the nation (96.2). From a tempo standpoint, they are somewhat slow (72.4 adjusted tempo; 109th in the country), but, like most teams, not as deliberate as Clemson.
Creighton’s overall KenPom ranking of 36 signifies that Clemson will be in for its biggest challenge of the young 2018-19 season, but they should still have a narrow edge, especially if they bring the same defensive intensity they brought against Georgia. They will just have to be especially stingy on the perimeter given Creighton’s strength from downtown.
KenPom Prediction: Clemson 74, Creighton 71 (Clemson’s Win Probability: 60%)
Tom’s Prediction: Clemson 81, Creighton 77
*Note: Players’ average stats are as of the end of Nov. 19; they do not reflect Creighton’s most recent game against Georgia State.