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Clemson Basketball Preview: Radford

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There can be only one.....winner as Clemson battles the Highlanders.

NCAA Basketball: Nebraska at Clemson Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

Where: Littlejohn Coliseum

When: Saturday, December 15th, 3pm EST

TV: ACC Network

Radford Highlanders (Big South)

Current Record: 6-3

Previous Game: 78-69 loss to Ohio

Head Coach: Mike Jones (Who? Don’t act like you don’t know!)

Projected Starting Lineup

C - #20 Mawdo Sallah - Sr - 6-8, 230 / 6.9 PTS, 4.3 REB, 1.8 BLK

F - #24 Ed Polite - Sr - 6-5, 225 / 11.6 PTS, 9.6 REB, 1.9 STL

G - #10 Caleb Tanner - Sr - 6-1, 180 / 11.7 PTS, 49% 3PT

SG - #11 Travis Fields - Jr - 5-10 170 / 11.1 PTS, 3.6 AST, 52% 3PT

PG - #1 Carlik Jones - S0 - 6-1, 180 / 16 PTS, 5 REB, 4.9 AST, 2.1 STL

Key Reserves

C - #15 Devonnte Holland - Jr - 6-7, 240

G/F - #0 Devin Hutchinson - Jr - 6-5, 195

Adjusted Tempo: 66.8 (308th Nationally)

Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 105.2 (132nd)

Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 101.9 (134)

3 Point Percentage: 39.3 (30th)

Steal Percentage: 6.3 (16th)

Offense: 4 out 1 in

Radford’s offense is pretty simple. They’re going to spread the floor, run clock, and make you play 1 on 1. They spread the floor with shooters, and if you help off on the drive, they will kick the ball out. If you play zone, they will attempt to shoot you out of it with their perimeter players.

Isolate and Drive

Radford plays a small lineup, and they love to drive mismatches at the 4. On this play, as soon as they see 6’9, 250 pound Dylan Osetkowski step out to guard 6’5, 225 pound Ed Polite, it’s an immediate drive to the basket. Amir Simms is going to have to show he can defend the dribble drive. He’s going to have a giant target on his back. I look for Radford to isolate him on the perimeter the same way they isolated Osetkowki.

4 Out Post

Radford is all about exploiting match ups. In this clip (and yes, the shot drops, my bad for cutting it short), they isolate Texas Freshman Kamaka Hepa as soon as he comes into the game. Hepa is a finesse, 3 point shooting big that struggles on defense. Radford spreads the floor and likes to send their big man, Mawdo Sallah straight to the block. I anticipate them attacking Hunter Tyson exactly like this when he comes into the game.

Back Cut

Radford’s ability to space the floor allows them to exploit back cuts and open passing lanes. Clemson must maintain ball pressure to prevent the pass and communicate on back screens. On this play, Texas doesn’t pressure the ball, and their center gets caught on the back screen with no help. I expect to see Radford attack Eli this way during the game. They’re going to make him step up and guard cutters. The Clemson guards have to protect him by limiting the visibility of Radford passers.


I’ve been talking a good bit about Radford’s ability to space the floor, and this is a perfect example. Caleb Tanner is shooting 49% from 3 and has unlimited range on catch and shoot opportunities. As soon as the Texas wing gets nosy on the drive it’s all over. Tanner has his feet set and lets it fly off the catch. Clemson can’t get caught watching the ball and trying to dig down on drives. Tanner and Travis Fields (56%) are capable of knocking down 3’s at a ridiculous clip if you let them stand on their spot and shoot. You can’t close out hard against Radford’s wing shooters, you have to stay at home in the first place.

Eating Clock and Shooting 3’s

Radford slowed the game down to a crawl against Texas. They would invite the Longhorns to take quick jump shots, and then walk the ball down the court and look for late 3’s or drives to the rim. On this play Texas attempts to blitz the high screen, but the point guard splits it and immediately finds the open shooter on the wing because his defender has to pinch in to cover the roll man. You have to remain fundamentally sound against Radford because they are an experienced group that punishes mistakes.


Mostly Man-to-Man

Sagging Man To Man, Please Shoot 3’s!

Radford plays a sagging man to man defense that looks to cut off drivers, clog the paint, and recover to shooters. They are undersized at every position, so they make shooting 3’s enticing for their opponents. They don’t want you to attack them on the interior, so they leave the perimeter open and hope you don’t beat them from the outside. They suckered a Texas team that should have destroyed them on the inside into shooting 27 3’s. Texas only hit 5 of them and lost at home to Radford. Clemson can’t fall for this trap. They want you to shoot early 3’s and then take the air out of the ball on offense.

Pick and Roll Defense

Radford is going to ice every pick and roll. This means the big man is going to show and prevent the ball handler from turning the corner. As I mentioned about, they protect the paint at all costs because they can’t stop you once you get it inside. This leaves ample opportunity for the roll man to get to the hoop. Clemson should be able to kill Radford inside with the 1-5, 1-4, and 1-3 pick and roll. Eli, Simms and Skara should all be able to use their height to score at the rim as the roll man. It’s up to Shelton Mitchell to deliver the passes under pressure. This is how I would attack Radford until they prove they can defend the roll man consistently. I would love to see Clemson run at least 2 pick and rolls each set instead of getting impatient and firing up the first semi-open 3 pointer.

Weak Side Rebounding

Clemson should be able to dominate the offensive glass against Radford. It’s imperative that either Eli or Simms have post position when we let it go from 3, because chances are we’re going to miss (sad face) but both of our big men should be able to clean up on the glass. Radford tries to rebound by committee due to their lack of size. On this play Texas’s big man does a great job of getting position as the shot is going up and then using his height to snag the board. If Clemson wins this game, offensive rebounding and put backs are going to play a huge role.

Quick Hands

Radford makes up for their lack of size by collecting steals. They are 16th in the nation in steal percentage. They use their quickness advantage to jump in passing lanes and harass bigger players not comfortable handling the ball. Clemson can’t be lazy with the ball or Radford will make them pay. Clemson’s big’s have to keep the ball high and away from the swatting hands of Radford’s undersized players.


An undersized team with deadly shooters who look to shorten the game, gulp, I don’t like this match up. Radford hit’s 3’s and challenges you to make 3’s. That hasn’t exactly been a recipe for success for the Tigers this season. Clemson should win this game. They are the better team, but Radford has pulled off two huge upsets on the road already this year, winning at Notre Dame and at Texas.

Clemson does get the Highlanders at a good time though. They are coming off back to back losses to James Madison and Ohio. The recipe to beat Radford is pretty straight forward for Clemson. Dominate the glass, don’t get suckered in to taking quick 3’s, and stay at home on defense and make Radford shoot contested 2’s at the rim. Clemson is more than capable of executing that game plan and dominating the game. They are also more than capable of chucking up bad 3’s and over helping on drivers and giving up open 3’s.

This game worries me. Littlejohn will be empty, the team is coming off finals, and Reed isn’t going to be available. This is going to be a test of the Tigers energy and poise. If they play with good energy and don’t get flustered by Radford’s style, they’ll be fine. If they come out flat and play into Radford’s game plan, they could get blown out of their own gym. Personally, I think they’ll figure out a way to take care of business, but my confidence in this team is somewhat eroded. One more dud of a game, and it’s going to be completely gone.


KenPom: Clemson 74 - Radford 63 (84%)

Drew: Clemson 67 - Radford 61