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Hoops Preview: Clemson vs. TCU in Las Vegas

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NCAA Basketball: ACC Conference Tournament- North Carolina State vs Clemson Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

When: Sunday 10:30pm
Where: Las Vegas
TV: ESPN 2

Clemson has taken care of business against the mid-major portion of the schedule after the disheartening opening loss against Virginia Tech. Fans waiting to see if the team is really making strides, like myself, are excited to see the Tigers get back to facing some power 5 competition with comparable talent. TCU features former Pittsburgh coach Jamie Dixon (and man did Pitt screw up allowing him to walk out) and are firmly inside KenPom’s top 100 at 51 currently. The Horned Frogs are 4-0, but only their last game against UC Irvine was against a top 100 team (and a fringe one at that). They won that by a point at home. The jury is definitely still out on TCU at this point, and the Tigers really need to notch some quality victories before entering the full brunt of ACC play.

This is the first game away from home for both teams this season. Hopefully the Tigers’ experience in Italy over the summer will give them an edge in this regard as they play in an unfamiliar arena. TCU is led by two high scoring guards in Desmond Bane and RJ Nembhard who are both over 16 points a game so far. Clemson was ultimately outplayed by the VT guards in game one, so this is another opportunity for Dawes, Newman, Hunter, and Scott to show us something against quality competition. TCU so far has been a mostly perimeter oriented team who has shot the 3 pointer well (33rd nationally in 3pt%) and is effective on the offensive glass when they miss (41st nationally). Bane in particular has been lighting it up, hitting 9-20 from 3 so far. The Tigers can’t afford to let him get off the way VT’s Landers Nolley did.

Should ranked Colorado beat Wyoming in the earlier game, Clemson could have a terrific opportunity for a true resume win to go with this one. That is a big if though, as the Tigers are the underdog in this one. Both teams are similarily built, but TCU (unsurprisingly) is a notch better on offense, mostly because they shoot it better from 3. Clemson will need the front line combination of Aamir Simms and Tevin Mack to win their matchups to help offset the likely advantage TCU will enjoy on the perimeter. While John Newman is improved a great deal, he still isn’t on the level of Bane or Nembhard just yet. Then you figure the Tigers will have two true freshmen logging heavy minutes as the other guard.

This is a late one for the east coast fans, but if you are a Clemson basketball fan in the least, this is a very good game to check out to see where the Tigers are and gauge how much hope fans should carry for this season’s team. KenPom calls for a very close game (which is probable considering how similar the blueprints are) with TCU winning 67-64. I will say the first team to crack 60 (if it happens at all) will win this one.