When: Wednesday, 9pm
The Tigers welcomed back Shelton Mitchell and eventually shook off the pesky Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets to notch a desperately needed win on Saturday. As the dust settles late in the season, the Tigers look to complete an excellent home season with the only loss being to Duke (forgiveable). Knocking off the Seminoles would send the team to the finale with Syracuse in good shape. It certainly has been a season most every Clemson fan didn’t see coming, and it would be a real shame for a late season slide to ruin the good work this group has done. The Tigers are locked in a battle with similarly upstart NCST for the coveted double bye fourth position in the ACC. Let’s look at the first meeting as to things to pay attention to this time.
Game One FSU 81-Clemson 79 O.T.
The Tigers looked to be in complete control of this game at the half after dominating the first ten minutes at a 21-8 clip. At the time, Clemson was rolling with a four game winning streak and appeared to have all the momentum to notch an excellent road win against another team fighting for NCAA seeding. It turned out to be a bit of fool’s gold, as the Seminoles outscored the Tigers from that moment on 73-58. This was a result of constant FSU pressure which wore down the Tigers and forced 21 turnovers (13 from the heralded backcourt of DeVoe, Mitchell, and Reed). FSU’s superior depth was on display as their bench outscored Clemson’s 32-19. A closer look at that game showed things were closer than maybe they should have been, with FSU having four players logging at least 25 minutes putting up offensive efficiency ratings over 100. Clemson, meanwhile, had one player logging at least 25 minutes with a rating of 100 or better...David Skara of all people! Such a disparity as that usually means a +/- of around 10 at least, so it is a little interesting the Tigers didn’t surrender the lead until O.T.
Now, Florida State got a hero-ball performance from Trent Forrest who made a bevy of high difficulty shots on his way to 16 points and a staggering ORtg of 135. While Forrest is a good player, this was way above average for him. Florida State has also not nearly been as good away from home and just got smoked by 20 at NCST. Clemson will need David Skara to work his defensive magic on Forrest and keep him from going off like he did in the first outing.
The key to this game, above all, is ball security. Florida State is much like the Oliver Purnell era Tigers which featured athleticism and defensive pressure which could be overwhelming at times, especially at home, but also led to some wildly inconsistent moments away from home and in tournament settings. Clemson fans who remember that time know that Purnell’s teams were in trouble if forced to execute in the half court consistently. Florida State is much the same way, so the Tigers need to end as many possessions with a shot or at worst a dead ball turnover so the Seminoles have to face the set Tiger defense. Clemson will need the energy of the home crowd to push the starting backcourt to the finish line. It would be nice if Clyde Trapp can provide some strong minutes when he is called upon after a few shaky performances of late.
Shelton Mitchell looked as good as one could have hoped in his return against GT. His return also helped get Gabe DeVoe out of his slump. Fans should notice some of the looks the Tigers were getting (even the one’s missed) which were much more open than what the team was seeing against Duke and VT in his absence. Mitchell’s driving ability strikes fear in the opponents, forces heavy help, and thus frees up kick out shots. Clemson will need that even more in this game dealing with a man to man approach similar to what VT employed.
Coach Brownell noted some tired legs for guys in his GT press conference. He no doubt cut back on the practices as to save some legs. The bonus of a veteran team like this one is less practice is required to get down things you want to do game to game. Clemson is essentially running a 7 man rotation, with Trapp being the 8th man seeing maybe 10 minutes. Guys like Marcquise Reed and Gabe DeVoe have logged a lot of miles on those legs during conference play. The one benefit of Mitchell’s injury was it got him some rest he wouldn’t have seen otherwise. Hopefully that will pay off with a great performance on Wednesday night.
KenPom likes the Tigers 77-71. I think the Tigers win by 10-15 if the turnovers are 14 or less, but the game tightens up significantly if that number gets to 15 or higher. Over 20 would most likely mean another loss.