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Clemson Basketball: Maryland Preview

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The Tigers take on ACC turncoat Maryland on Wednesday, and they better have our money.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: FEB 04 Wisconsin at Maryland Photo by Tony Quinn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Clemson (3-0) vs Maryland (4-0)

ACC vs Big Ten Challenge
Littlejohn Coliseum - God’s Country, South Carolina
5 PM, ESPN2

Quick Preview

Maryland returns to Clemson after skipping out on the ACC in the middle of the night and not paying their bill a few seasons ago. I can’t say they’ve been missed, but Brad and the boys may have to do some work after the game to collect for the conference (Mark Turgeon sleeps with the fishes). All Maryland hate aside (and I’ve got plenty of it, but now is not the time), this is one of those “irresistible force meets immovable object” games. Maryland has one of the most efficient offenses in college basketball, albeit against tomato cans, and Clemson has a Top-10 defense.

I have a “how to talk to your friends and family about a good Clemson basketball team” article sitting in my back pocket, and I almost pulled it out after the Purdue victory, but I decided to wait until after this game. Purdue was missing their top two point guards, and that’s death against this Clemson team because of the Tigers depth and athleticism at the point (pardon me, I almost blacked out after typing that).

Maryland likes to score, Clemson likes to defend. The Tigers want to turn this into a rock fight played in the 60s and Maryland wants to play in the 80s. Whoever inflicts their style of play on this game will come out on top.

Maryland Starting Lineup

(all stats are per game averages)

PG -#5 - Eric Ayala - Jr - 6’5, 200 - 15.3 PTS, 3 AST, 42.1% 3pt

SG - #11 Darryl Morsell - Sr - 6’5, 200 - 9.3 PTS, 3.5 AST, 50% 3Pt

SF - #2 - Aaron Wiggins - Jr - 6’6, 200 - 10.8 PTS, 3.8 AST, 3.3 REB

PF - #25 - Jarius Hamilton - Jr - 6’8, 235 - 9.8 PTS, 5 REB, 50% 3Pt

C - #30 - Galin Smith - Sr - 6’9, 235 - 6.3 PTS, 3.3 REB, 70.6% FG

Key Bench

SF - #13 - Hakim Hart -So - 6’6 205 - 21 MIN, 13 PTS

PF/C - #24 - Donta Scott - So - 6’7, 230 - 22.8 MIN, 11.8 PTS

PG - #23 - Aquan Smart - Fr - 6’3, 175 - 14 MIN, 2.5 PTS

C - #24 - Chol Marial - 7’2, 235 - 12.3 MIN, 1.3 BLK

SG/SF - #12 - Reese Mona - Sr - 6’2, 185 - 9.7 MIN, 1 PTS

Maryland on Offense

Key Stats

(all rankings national)

Adj Efficiency - 110.1 - 15th

Effective FG% - 64.1 - 2nd

Adj Temp - 70.3 - 267th

2PT% - 64.3 - 2nd

3PT% - 42.5 - 23rd

First off, these stats are inflated, Maryland has played Old Dominion, Navy, Mount St. Mary’s, and Saint Peter’s. Clemson will be the first test for the Terps against similar talent. That said, they can hit shots.

They have NBA length in their back court, with 6’5” Ayala and 6’5” Morsell leading the way. The key for the Tigers will be Ayala. He’s their leading scorer and overall best talent. Clemson has to contain him off the dribble, shadow him off screens, and make a concerted effort to make someone else beat them. If you let Ayala lead the way, Maryland will be tough to beat. They have other capable scorers, but he’s the guy that makes the offense work. I expect steady pressure from all 3 Clemson point guard options (Dawes, Honor, Trapp), and I wouldn’t be shocked if Newman got a shot at him as well if he gets rolling.

As you can see by their adjusted tempo metric, they want to work late into the shot clock and then get the ball in Ayala’s hands. Clemson should employ a similar defensive game plan against Maryland that they used against Purdue. They need to put relentless pressure on the ball and try to speed the Terps up. If you can get them to jack up a shot early in the clock, it should be considered a victory.

One thing the Tigers must avoid is over committing on the drive and leaving shooters open on the perimeter. I know it goes against everything they’ve ever been taught, but sometimes sticking with your man on the perimeter and making a driving player score at the basket is good defense in the modern game. If Maryland gets Clemson into defensive rotation late in the clock they will punish them on the perimeter.

Also, and I can’t stress this enough. Fouling Ayala (91.7%), Hart (92.3%), or Morsell (87.5%) is the best way to lose this game. If you send their guards to the line, they will punish you. Clemson’s post players have to wall up and make them finish of the top without reaching. They’re going to hit both free throws anyway, so getting in foul trouble is silly.

Maryland on Defense

Key Stats

Effective FG% - 44 - 56th

3PT% - 27.2 - 57th

2PT% - 46.6 - 97th

Off Reb Allowed - 25.3 - 95th

This game has Aamir Simms written all over it. Clemson multi-talented big man should be able to eat against this defense. Big games are for big time players, and if Simms wants to lay a marker down for a spot on the first team All-ACC team, this is a nice place to start. When he’s not punishing an underwhelming Maryland front line with his offense, he should be able to overwhelm them on the offensive glass. If PJ Hall is ready to go (concussion protocol), he could also bully the Terps down low.

I expect Clemson to let loose their traditional barrage of questionable outside shots, and it’s imperative that Simms, Hall, Prosper, and Baehre track down a few misses. Clemson hasn’t rebounded the ball well yet, but they’ve played 2 teams (Miss State and Purdue) with a ton of size and athleticism on the inside. This is a game where they should have an advantage on the boards, and they must cash in with extra opportunities.

We all know that Clemson’s offense can be mercurial. When outside shots are falling, it can be devastating. When outside shots are clanging off the rim it can be brutal. They tend to make shots in bunches and miss shots in bunches. They’ll need to play with a lead, because Maryland is steady on offense. If Clemson can’t stretch it when they’re hot, Maryland will beat them when they’re cold. Clemson managed to do just that against a solid Purdue squad. If they can pull of the same trick against the Terps, they’ll walk away with the win.

Prediction

KenPom

Clemson 70 - Maryland 67 - 59% Confidence

DrewSchneid

Clemson 76 - Maryland 70 - 50% Confidence

Clemson gets hot enough, often enough, to get into the mid 70’s. Their defense gives an otherwise untested Maryland fits. The Tigers hold off a late Maryland run to win the game, and after the game, steal the hubcaps off the Maryland bus to help the Terps pay off their debt to the conference.