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Hoops Preview: Clemson Hosts Morehead State

High Noon Tip on Monday!

NCAA Basketball: Alabama at Clemson Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

When: Monday 12pm
Where: Littlejohn Coliseum

Ordinarily I’d be a little more bummed after seeing Clemson drop a road game at Virginia Tech after cracking the AP top 25. Thankfully, the football team nearly beat Notre Dame out of the playoffs on Saturday, and I’ll be basking in that glow for a good while longer. Clemson didn’t get a chance at playing South Carolina in basketball after the football team was also robbed of the chance this season. We will see if that game gets rescheduled, but this will be the final “breather” game before the Tigers begin the ACC gauntlet. This game was moved up a day after the U of SC news broke.

Morehead State is currently 4-5 and ranked 303 in the KenPom rankings. One fun fact is they are currently Kentucky’s lone win of the season! They had their best win over then 199th ranked Eastern Kentucky, but they followed that up with a loss to 325th ranked SIU Edwardsville. Clemson should be plenty motivated to get the sour taste of that game in Blacksburg out of their mouths and overwhelm the Eagles with its pressure defense and overall depth.

Speaking of depth, the Tigers’ bench was nearly nonexistent for the first time all season against VT. Hunter Tyson was not able to play following his injury against Alabama. Only 7 Tigers played double-figure minutes, and the bench combined for more fouls than points. That plus the combined 8 turnovers from point guards Al-Amir Dawes and Nick Honor were the major reasons Clemson lost to VT for the third time in a row. Clemson is now just 1-7 against the Hokies since 2016.

There isn’t much more to say about this game other than that the Tigers need to regain the positive mojo that the initial 5-0 start provided. The loss to VT is not that harmful provided the Tigers protect home court and, of course, not mess around in games like this one. VT has beaten Villanova and should be in the mix for the top 6-8 slots in the ACC this season. We’ve already seen Kentucky get off to its worst start since the Gilded Age and Duke drop two non-conference home games, so the crazy COVID 2020 year continues to spring some surprises. Heck, even the New York Jets won a football game when they had every reason in the world to continue to tank for Trevor.

Clemson really needs John Newman to find his form. This team has quality depth as we know, but when Clemson was beating top 10 opponents last season, Newman’s ability to score as a slasher and occasional 3-point threat was at the forefront of those victories. The Dawes/Honor duo can be effective in stretches and situations, but the team gives up a good bit of size going that route. Clemson needs to have both fresh to spell each other and harass the primary ball handlers of the opposition, and that can’t happen if they are playing heavy minutes together. Clyde Trapp is solid, but lacks the scoring power Newman can offer when he is playing at his best. This can be a game where Brownell tries to get Newman going and hopefully ups his confidence before a huge showdown with top 25 Florida State on December 29th.

The Eagles have suffered blowouts to every team inside the top 100 of KenPom’s rankings, and the Tigers sit at #21. There is no reason Clemson shouldn’t put this to bed by halftime and cruise to victory.

KenPom calls for a 75-52 win. I’m going to say the Tigers hold the Eagles under 50 and win 80-45.