#6 Wichita State at #2 Clemson
When: Sunday, 2:00
Where: Littlejohn Coliseum
The Tigers edged a scrappy Wright State team on Tuesday to advance to the NIT’s second round. Rather than playing the 3-seeded Furman Paladins, it is the 6-Seeded Shockers of Wichita State that will come to Clemson. They’re led by Head Coach Gregg Marshall, originally from Greenwood, SC. Coach Marshall started his head coaching career at Winthrop, where he led them to several NCAA tournaments and earning a first round win. He then went to Wichita State and in his fourth year, led the Shockers to the NIT title. He followed that with a streak of seven straight tournament appearances with the most notable coming in 2013 when they made a run to the Final Four. This is the first year they’ve missed the NCAA tournament since their 2011 NIT Championship.
This year’s Wichita State team (20-14) hasn’t been overly impressive though. They have four wins against quality opponents (KenPom top 100). They beat three NCAA tournament teams: Baylor, UCF, and Temple. Their only other quality win came early in the year against Providence (neutral site). Clemson has seven top 100 wins including one against Virginia Tech, which trumps any of the Shockers’ quality wins.
6’8” PF Markis McDuffie is the player to watch. He is shooting .347 from three at a high-volume. A few days ago we mentioned a PF with similar shooting numbers for Wright State, Bill Wampler, before he knocked down three three-pointers and scored 17 points in a near win for the Raiders. McDuffie is even more dangerous standing two inches taller and averaging 18.3 points per game. It’ll be interesting to see if Simms or Skara guards him. He is certainly their biggest threat and is coming off a 20-point performance against Furman.
Wichita State plays mostly man-to-man defense and runs a moderate tempo. Clemson will try to slow them down. The Shockers defense is solid though, ranking 77th nationally in efficiency. They struggle to avoid committing fouls. Starting center Jaime Echenique has had foul issue throughout the year. Clemson needs to attack and get to the line.
Their offense has been mediocre and that’s where Clemson can really suffocate them if they control the tempo by slowing it down and making them earn every basket. If the Tigers can avoid giving away points off turnovers, this task becomes even harder. Aside from star PF McDuffie, freshman Dexter Dennis is their only major three-point threat. Despite that, they shoot more three-pointers than Clemson and yet still seem to struggle to find good two-point looks.
Shelton Mitchell will not play for Clemson in this game as we learned on Tuesday that he has been playing through knee pain and will have surgery to repair the issue. This revelation explains his regression from a year ago. We all saw it on the court and in the numbers and have been frustrated by it all year. Now we know why and certainly owe a salute to Mitchell whose on-court struggles can likely be blamed on the injury as he was postponing surgery for the betterment of the team.
Even without Mitchell, Clemson should win this one with a focused defensive effort. According to KenPom, the Shockers are comparable to Notre Dame and Georgia Tech, two teams the Tigers have beaten. Clemson won’t get much help from their thin bench, but they should have enough to earn their 21st win.
KenPom : W 71-61 (81%)
Kantor’s Gut: W 68-62 (67%)