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Basketball Preview: Clemson vs Clemson (...and Louisville)

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Clemson swapped Boston College for Louisville, but it won’t matter either way unless the Tigers play better.

NCAA Basketball: N.C. State at Clemson Ken Ruinard-USA TODAY Sports

Clemson (9-4 3-4 ACC) vs Boston College #25 Louisville (10-3 5-2 ACC)

9 P.M. EST - ACCNX

Clemson is a Football School, South Carolina - Littlejohn Coliseum

Preview

Clemson was originally scheduled to play 3-10 Boston College at home on Wednesday night. The Tigers are in desperate need of a win to save their rapidly foundering season, and if there is a team to “get right” against in the ACC, it’s probably B.C. The Tigers, unfortunately, will not have the opportunity to “get right” against B.C. because of a COVID outbreak involving the Eagles. Luckily, the ACC found the perfect replacement in Louisville. Or wait, no, that’s not true at all. Playing Louisville instead of Boston College is terrible for Clemson, but such is life as a Clemson basketball fan.

Louisville is 3-2 over their last 5 games with wins over Duke, Wake, and Va. Tech and losses to Florida State and Miami. Clemson is 2-3 over their last 5 including back-to-back-to-back soul crushing losses to UVA, Georgia Tech, and Florida State.

Louisville

This is the section of the preview where I normally give you some pertinent facts on the opposition, including some advanced metrics on offense and defense and the starting lineup. I will return to my normally scheduled preview style next week, but honestly, Louisville is the least of Clemson’s concerns tomorrow night.

Instead of talking about Louisville, let’s talk a little about the Tigers, because if they don’t play better basketball they will lose, and lose by a wide margin.

Clemson

Defense

Clemson is a team built on defense, and they’ve been pathetic on defense over the last three games. Prior to this last string of defeats, the highest point total they allowed on the season was 70 in a win over Purdue (NC State also put up 70, but it took them an extra period of basketball).

Over the last three alleged “basketball” games, the Tigers have hemorrhaged points. Giving up 85 to Virginia, 83 to Georgia Tech, and 80 to Florida State. A team built on defense can’t win when they don’t play defense, and brother, the Tigers haven’t come close to winning since their COVID break after knocking off NC State.

It’s not hard to pin point the issue. Clemson hasn’t defended the 3-pointer, at all, over the last three games.

vs. Virginia - 15-27 (55.6%)

at Georgia Tech - 9-18 (50%)

at Florida State - 12-28 (42.9%)

Under Brad Brownell, Clemson has a bad habit of getting beat off the dribble, over helping on the drive, and giving up wide open 3’s instead of contested 2’s. That’s been a major part of the problem over the last three games. At the slightest hint of a dribble drive, all 5 Clemson players collapse into the paint and a simple kick out, with an occasional one pass ball reversal, provides a wide open look for the opposition.

The best way to prevent this from happening is to stop getting beat off the dribble. That means taking a step back, containing the ball handler, and making them move the ball from side to side instead of directly down the lane. This does open you up to an occasional pull up 3 off the dribble, but I’ll take that all day, every day, over shooters spotting up in the corners and at the elbow extended and treating the game like an open gym.

You want a game plan against Louisville?

Make them beat you inside on post ups and contested layups.

Maybe they can beat you scoring 2 points at a time, but they for damn sure are going to beat you scoring 3 at a time.

STOP OVERHELPING ON DRIVES FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS RIGHT AND GOOD IN THIS WORLD!

Make their point guard prove he can hit a contested layup instead of making their wing shooters prove they can hit a wide open catch and shoot 3 pointer. Better yet, stop getting caught on high-ball screens and lazy hedges and stop the other team from driving into the paint at their leisure and collapsing your entire defense.

If Louisville scores 80 points, Clemson will lose this by at least 15.

Offense

Much like the defensive problems, the offensive issues are easy to diagnose but hard to fix.

Basketball is a game built around star players, and Clemson’s “star” players have been embarrassingly bad over this stretch. I hand out plenty of accolades when things are going well, so I feel justified in pointing out some terrible offensive performances when things are going belly up.

Aamir Simms

vs Virginia - 2 PTS (1-9)

at Georgia Tech - 19 PTS (9-13)

at FSU - 5 PTS (1-3)

Simms is supposed to be the “go to” player on this team, but he’s pulled the same disappearing act over the last 3 games that I complained about his first 2 seasons at Clemson. Even his 19 point game was overshadowed because he was punked out by Moses Wright.

The game that bothers me the most is the FSU no show. How do you play 25 minutes in a must win game and only attempt 3 shots? Based on my knowledge of basketball, the goal is to put the ball in the basket, and if your “best” player only attempts to put the ball in the basket 3 times, you’re not going to win.

Simms considers himself a leader. Maybe he is, maybe he isn’t, but this season is going to get away from the Tigers if he doesn’t show up tomorrow night. If he’s a leader, it’s time to stop talking about it and be about it on Wednesday.

Al-Amir Dawes

vs Virginia - 0 PTS (0-4)

at Georgia Tech - 3 PTS (1-4)

at FSU - 7 PTS (2-11)

I’ll give Dawes credit, at least he attempted to score against FSU, unlike Simms. Granted he wasn’t “good” or “efficient” but at least he was directing the ball towards the hoop. I had Dawes as my break out player this season, and the from 4* PG out of Newark has been a disappointment. Clemson needs him to score, and he hasn’t done it.

Someone told him he’s a 3-point shooter and he believed them.

Instead of driving the ball, getting to the rim, and getting fouled, he’s mostly just chucking away from deep. Over the last 7 games, he’s attempted 34 3-pointers and 2 free throws. He’s a talented player who has decided to feature the facet of his game that needs the most work. That’s poor decision making by Dawes and poor coaching by Brownell. Clemson has actual 3-point shooters. What they need is someone to attack the rim, collapse the defense, and give them open looks. Dawes can do that, but he refuses. I don’t like pulling guys for shooting, but if I’m the coach of Clemson, he’s headed to the bench after the first contested 3 he takes, and putting his warm-ups back on, because I’ve got other guards who can take bad shots and hit them at a higher rate.

To me, the Louisville game boils down to these 2 players on offense. Simms needs to put up 20+ and Dawes needs to be somewhere in the 10-15 point range with 3-4 assists. If that doesn’t happen, it’s going to be tough to win. At the same point, if they let Louisville score 80+, it won’t matter, because Clemson can’t get to 80 against Louisville even if Simms and Dawes combine for 40 points.

Coaching

I’ve carried water for Brad Brownell when carrying water for Brad Brownell has been an arduous task.

Brad...buddy, I’m tired.

At the end of last season I said that Brownell was going to be coaching for his job with his best overall roster this season. Things got off to a smashing start and I was smug as hell. At their best, this Clemson team is a defensive menace with enough talent on offense to get into the 70’s and win games.

At their worst, this is a classic “BrowneLLLLL” team that gives up points in bunches, goes on 10 minute scoring droughts, and refuses to make in-game adjustments. You can’t leave red hot shooters open, even if the scouting report says to leave them open. You can’t wait to press until it’s too late to come back. You can’t run an offense that involves passing the ball aimlessly around the perimeter for 33 seconds and chucking up desperation 3’s to beat the shot clock...or not getting up a shot at all.

Over the first 10 games, these issues looked like they were fixed. I thought this was the Brad Brownell Clemson team that I carried all that water to see. The last three games have made me feel foolish. I’ve supported Coach Brownell through some baaaaad basketball. I’ve said “wait and see, when he gets his roster put together, this team is going to be good.”

The roster is here.

The talent is here.

Another blowout loss with this collection of talent and I’m all-out, and right now, I might be the only one left.

I hope we take care of business, but I’m afraid we won’t. There’s a lot on the line Wednesday at 9pm.