Location: Littlejohn Coliseum
TV: Bally Sports South (RSN)
For the first time in program history, the Tigers will be facing up against the Bryant Bulldogs. Clemson, who has started the season 2-0, looks to continue their win streak with Monday’s contest.
Bryant, 1-1 on the season, dropped their lone loss last week against Rhode Island. Last season, the Bulldogs had an impressive 15-7 record, but their season ended with a disappointing loss in the first round of the NEC Conference Tournament. Bryant has won 15 games in each of the last two seasons.
In Clemson’s last outing, PJ Hall was excellent, scoring 22 points and grabbing eight rebounds, as he led the Tigers to a win over Wofford. When PJ asserts his dominance, the offense has a certain flow that creates open, in-rhythm looks. The Tigers are at their best when PJ Hall is at his best. To Hall’s benefit, The Bulldogs do not have have a player taller than 6-8, however, he will most likely be matched up against Hall Elisias, who is averaging four blocks per game. It would be a good to see PJ excel despite facing a competent rim protector as Clemson heads into the brunt of the non-conference schedule.
Up to this point, you can’t say enough good things about Al-Amir Dawes. The Junior guard is averaging 17 points per game on 50% from behind the arc. You read that correctly, 50%. While yes, realistically this is an unsustainable mark, you can’t deny the fact that he is shooting lights out. Dawes has carried this offense when they needed it the most and he has also been holding his own defensively. For Al-Amir, the Tigers need more of the same from him. Even if he cools down shooting the ball, shooting 35% or more from deep is a necessity for a successful season.
Nick Honor has been a pest defensively this season. Friday against Wofford he became just the third Tiger since the 2015-16 season to notch five steals in a single game. Honor, who averaged about a steal and a half per game last season, could be even better defensively this year. While it is hard to judge a players defensive level after two games, his defense could be a huge added bonus to the team this season, and the Tigers will definitely need to guard the 3-ball against Bryant.
The Bryant Bulldogs certainly aren’t lacking sharpshooters. They have six players shooting 33% or better from behind the arc. Shooting the three-ball is the identity of this Bulldogs squad. Last season they shot 38% from three as a team.
Charles Pride has been by far the best offensive player for the Bulldogs this season. He has put up 25 points in both games he has played this season, shooting 50% from both the floor and from three, while being 7-10 from the charity strike. That is a 62% true shooting percentage (for my stat nerds out there). No matter which way you crunch the numbers, they jump out the page. Slowing him down will be no easy task. His hot numbers from this season aren’t necessarily a fluke either, he shot 40% from behind the arc last season.
Because of the effectiveness of draining shots from three point land, Bryant can score points in bunches. When the Bulldogs get scorching hot, they win. There is a direct correlation between made threes and games won for this Bryant squad. In Bryant’s first contest of the season they put up 122 points. It was against Fisher College, but scoring 120+ in any college game is an impressive feat. Since the Bryant Bulldogs can be a scoring juggernaut, it is likely you see Brownell use numerous defensive looks. The good news for the Tigers is that they are holding opponents to shooting 17% from three, which is 9th best in the NCAA. After all, Brownell is 103-41 against non-conference opponents while at Clemson.
A big key for the Tigers is to limit turnovers. Clemson, so far this season are in the bottom 25% for turnover percentage and have the 18th worst non-steal turnover percentage in the NCAA. Free throw shooting has also been a struggle for the Tigers. 65% from the line is a below average mark Clemson needs to improve upon.
For all the positives about Bryant’s offense, their defense hasn’t ranked in the top 200 in efficiency in over a decade. Still, if we have learned anything from the first two games, we should not take any opponent lightly. This should be a conformable win for the Tigers, but beating up on inferior opponents hasn’t been the identity of this team. KenPom is forecasting that Clemson has 92% chance to come out victorious Monday night.