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ACC Tourney Preview: Clemson faces upstart BC

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Can the Tigers Advance?

NCAA Basketball: Clemson at Virginia Tech Michael Shroyer-USA TODAY Sports

When: Thursday 2pm (approximate-noon game will determine actual time)

Where: Barclay Center Brooklyn

TV: ESPN/ACCN

Clemson caught a potential break when Boston College upset NCST in Wednesday’s second round game. Now Clemson faces a team with two games on its legs and one that relies a good bit on jump shooting. Clemson fans should know the Eagles are dangerous in spite of this and can recall the Tigers narrowly escaping an early ACC tilt in Boston. It will be a battle of high level guards as Marcquise Reed, Shelton Mitchell, and Gabe DeVoe face off against Jerome Robinson, Ky Bowman, and Jordan Chatman. Any of these six can explode for 20 to 30 on a given night. Robinson in particular was Steph Curry like when these two teams faced off in January.

Clemson’s advantage should come from being the superior defensive team and having Elijah Thomas inside. Those BC guards have put in over 30 minutes a game the last two days facing Georgia Tech and NCST. Clemson should look to pressure them and get into their legs as much as possible. The Eagles have made this run using tremendous first halves to build double digit leads and holding on from there. The Tigers will need to stem that tide and avoid a slow start. The layoff from Saturday’s loss at Syracuse hasn’t been so long as to really be a concern, but getting the feel of this arena could take a few minutes. Clemson’s defense has been very good down the stretch and now the Tigers are the 7th ranked defensive efficiency team in the nation according to KenPom. Boston College is the 115th ranked defense by comparison. Defense and guard play tend to determine tournament basketball, and Boston College’s reliance on out scoring teams generally has a shorter shelf life as they will inevitably hit a cold streak. Clemson hopes that wall is hit early Thursday afternoon.

I would expect Clemson to make a concerted effort to attack inside with Thomas early and often. The Eagles really do not have a guy who can match up one on one. The Eagles are not nearly the shot blocking team that Florida State and Syracuse are, so the relatively smaller guards for Clemson should have more success driving to the rim. Clemson relies a lot on the three ball as we know, but playing inside/out is the way I would go against the Eagles in an unfamiliar arena. Unfortunately, the MVP of the first meeting was the now injured Donte Grantham who lit it up for 23 points, 14 boards, 5 assists, and a robust 153 ORtg. Aamir Simms isn’t ready to do that but will need to follow up a strong game at Syracuse with another good effort to fill some of that void.

The Tigers should be rested and ready for a grinder performance. BC will need to ride its momentum to a quick start, but if they fail to do so, I predict Clemson will impose its will physically and the Eagles will eventually wilt. Kudos to BC for making it this far and improving a ton from that pitiful unit we saw two years ago.

KenPom calls for a 74-68 Tigers victory. I’m going to go with a 72-59 win.