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Clemson Basketball: Florida State Preview

Leonard Hamilton continues to age in reverse and put hyper-athletic teams on the floor.

Syracuse v Florida State Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images

Florida State vs Clemson
Tuesday, December 29th, 2020
7 PM (Fox Sports South)
Littlejohn Coliseum, Buckeye Buster, South Carolina

The Tigers return to ACC play after a quick detour to dispatch Morehead State on Monday. In a weird way, this is an important game for Clemson. After dropping a winnable game to Virginia Tech on the road, they need to hold serve at home. Starting the ACC slate at 0-2 would be less than ideal.

Key Florida State Stats - Offense

(All rankings National)

Adjusted Efficiency - 110.2 (31st)

Offensive Rebound % - 36.5 (25th)

3 Point % - 35.3 (108)

Key Florida State Stats - Defense

Adjusted Efficiency - 91.6 (29th)

Average Possession Length - 17.8 (277th)

3 Point % - 35 (227)

Florida State Starting Lineup

(All Stats Per/Game)

PG - #23 - M.J. Walker - Sr. - 6’5”, 213 - 16 Pts - 41.9% 3pt - 92% FT

SG - #2 - Anthony Polite - Jr. - 6’6”, 215 - 11.5 Pts - 5.5 Reb - 52.2 3Pt

SF - #4 - Scottie Barnes - Fr. - 6’9”, 227 - 10.7 Pts - 4.2 Ast - 3.8 Reb

PF - #1 - Raiquan Gray - Jr. - 6’8”, 260 - 7.8 Pts - 6.5 Reb - 2.2 Ast

C - #5 - Balsa Koprivica - So - 7’1”, 240 - 10.2 Pts - 5.3 Reb - 57% Fg%

Key Bench

PF - #10 - Malik Osborne - Jr. - 6’9”, 225 - 19.7 Min - 3.8 Pts - 4.7 Reb

G - #0 - Rayquan Evans - Sr. - 6’4”, 210 - 17.2 Min - 3.8 Pts - 1.2 Ast

F - #31 - Wyatt Wilkes - Jr. - 6’8”, 220 - 13.2 Min - 3.7 Pts - 1.7 Ast

G - #24 - Sadaar Calhoun Jr. - 6’6”, 220 - 10 Min - 3.7 Pts - 1 Ast

Florida State on Offense

Leonard Hamilton continues to find the freakiest athletes in the nation, pair them with a giant center, and physically dominate basketball games. This year is no different.

M.J. Walker is a problem at point guard, and Clemson will struggle to find an answer. The former 5* recruit oozes physical talent, and is adept at finishing at the rim and hitting from deep. He uses his size to bully opposing point guards on his way to the rim, and seeks contact. He has the strength to finish plays, and is deadly at the line. If you play under screens he’ll pull up and beat you from deep. Clemson’s best bet is relentless ball pressure. He’s a taller guard, and Clemson will harass him up and down the court and try and get underneath him. He’s averaging 3 turnovers a game, and the Tigers will look to push that into the 5-6 turnover range.

Anthony Polite is yet another big bodied, long armed physical specimen. He’s deadly from deep (52.2) but struggles from the free throw line (52.9%). The Tigers have to run him off the 3-point line and make him finish at the rim. Outside of Aamir, there are plenty of fouls available in the Clemson front court, and Polite should be forced to prove it from the free throw line if he manages to get into the lane.

Scottie Barnes is an alien. M.J. Walker is the nominal point guard, but the 6’9” Barnes makes the Seminole offense hum. When the 5-star freshman is on top of his game, FSU is one of the best teams in the nation. Much like Walker, Clemson has to get into him and make everything difficult. If he gets comfortable, he can beat you on his own. Every pass has to be challenged, every catch needs to be contested, and every dribble needs to be pressured. The only crack in Barnes’s game is his youth. Things are easy for him on the court, and the Tigers have to make them hard.

The Seminole front court is your standard Hamilton lineup. A bruising power forward paired with a 7’0”+ big man, both capable of pounding the offensive boards when one of their giant guards misses a shot. Gray is a bully around the bucket, and the young Clemson front court will have to fight him on every play to keep the 6’8”, 260-pound big man from pushing them under the goal and picking up easy buckets.

You can say the same thing about Balsa Koprivica. He’s a throwback low post player who shoots a high percentage because he’s shooting from inside 5 feet. This will be a tough matchup for Aamir Simms, but one he has to win. I’ll be interested to see if Brad goes to a big lineup early and tries to get Simms matched up with Gray instead of the towering Koprivica. This is all about rebounding and staying out of foul trouble for Aamir. Neither FSU big man is going to take him outside and shoot over him or beat him off the dribble. It’s all going to be old school low post brawling. The way this game is officiated in terms of contact allowed may tell the story. If Gray or Koprivica can get Simms in foul trouble early, Clemson may not be able to close late.

Florida State on Defense

The game plan against Florida State isn’t complicated, but it’s tough to execute. They’re going to play under screens and make you shoot over long wings to beat them.

I like this matchup for Clemson. The Tigers have capable shooters 1-5, and can bring in extra firepower from deep off the bench. If Honor and Dawes can drive and kick to open shooters, they will give Florida State fits. If they toss the ball around the perimeter and settle for bad jump shots over freakishly athletic guards and wings, they lose.

Simms may also be a problem for FSU if his offensive game shows up. Aamir has been great this year, but at times, he’s taken a back seat to the guards, and looking like Sophomore “how did Aamir play 30 minutes and take 6 shots,” and not, “I’m the best player on the court, try and stop me,” Aamir from last season. I anticipate him taking the FSU big men outside and making them guard him in pick and pop and pick and roll action. He’s an uncomfortable matchup for most big men due to his ability to score from inside and outside. It’s possible he forces Koprivica off the court, and that could open up the lane for the rest of the offense.

This is a miss/make game. I don’t think there will be much in the way of offensive rebounding. Hot Clemson shooting wins this game. Cold Clemson shooting loses this game.



Clemson 68 - Florida State 65 - 61%


Clemson 74 - Florida State 68 - 60%

I like the Tigers at home in this one. I think the shooting shows up and they force enough Florida State turnovers to win the game.