When: Saturday, 2pm
If you are anything like me, you are looking for distractions after the disappointing blowout loss by the football team in the Sugar Bowl Friday night. I’ll be taking down Christmas decorations and taking in some Clemson basketball, hoping for some positivity. The Tigers notched a big win over FSU to improve to 7-1 and 1-1 in the ACC. A win today would definitely have Clemson back in the top 25.
Miami always worries me as someone who follows the Tigers in basketball. Just like Virginia Tech, the Hurricanes have delivered some bad losses on the Brad Brownell era teams. This year’s Hurricanes have had to deal with the injury bug to guards Chris Lykes and Kameron McGusty, posts Rodney Miller and Sam Waardenburg, which is a big reason they are just 4-3 and 0-2 in the ACC right now. Despite these losses, the Hurricanes erased a 16 point deficit to nearly upset Virginia Tech in Blacksburg last time out. The Canes are a dangerous team, and the Tigers failed their first true road test this season. Clemson simply has to win this game if it really has visions of a top 5 finish in the ACC this season.
Clemson’s bench power and defense have carried the team thus far. Even the deep Seminoles saw their bench outperformed by Clemson’s back on Tuesday. That one loss to VT is the only time the bench really didn’t provide much production. Clemson certainly needs to use its vastly superior depth to wear down a beat up Hurricanes squad in this game.
We will see if Lykes is able to play coming off an ankle injury. He has been a serious problem for Clemson during his career and can explode as a scorer when he’s right. Isaiah Wong has done a lot of the heavy lifting in the meantime. Wong has scored at least 16 points and gone for over 20 three of the last four games. Clemson will need to make sure Wong is accounted for on the defensive end, especially if Lykes can’t play.
Jim Larranaga is an excellent coach. He’s dealing with some injury luck similar to what Brownell had to deal with the last two seasons. Clemson is the better team as it stands today, but a flat effort or any lack of focus can easily lead to a disappointing defeat. You simply can’t lose games like this if you really want to compete for something in this league. Virginia Tech is going to be a factor all season, so that loss really doesn’t hurt that much, but this one definitely would.
Clyde Trapp had his best game as a Tiger against FSU. It was much needed as John Newman continues to not be fully back in form. I still believe that Newman is a guy that needs to produce if this team wants to make a run, so hopefully we will see signs of that in this game. It certainly is nice to have a guy like Nick Honor who can explode at any time during a game with a scoring spree. Honor is not affected in the least by slow starts and always believes the next shot is going in. He and Al Amir Dawes are absolutely fearless.
KenPom likes Clemson in a close game 68-64. I generally say that the first team to 60 will win the game.