Clemson 5-4 (0-1) vs. Drake 5-2 (1-0)
When: Saturday, December 11th at 2:00pm
Location: State Farm Arena, Atlanta, GA
TV: ACC Network
The Tigers look much better than their record indicates, but the old adage — you are what your record says you are — still rings true. The Tigers took St. Bonaventure, West Virginia, and Miami to the brink. Despite holding second-halfcl leads, Clemson lost all three of those big games. They also lost to Rutgers, who oddly seems to have the Tigers’ number. They now sit at 5-4 and have three winnable non-conference games before a stretch of 19-consecutive ACC games that starts with Virginia, Duke, and Virginia again. Winning these three non-conference games is paramount.
Clemson is undersized this year and it has hurt them in a couple of ways. The 6-10 PJ Hall is their only real shot-blocking threat, and the team ranks just 298th in block percentage. They only rank 103rd in defensive rebounding percentage and are worse on the offensive glass. A lack of size with the guards has also been evident as taller guards have given Clemson trouble when they have 5-10 Nick Honor and 6-2 Al-Amir Dawes on the court together.
Fortunately, Drake provides a favorable match-up in that they often use a small lineup that features no players above 6-7. No Bulldog is averaging a block or more per game and a 6-3 guard (Garrett Sturtz) currently leads the team in rebounding (6.7 RPG). While this isn’t something the Tigers can count on in ACC play, it is something they need to take advantage of on Saturday.
Clemson must also keep an eye on Tucker Devries. The 6-7 freshman topped 20 points in each of Drake’s last two games and is their leading scorer. Watch for who draws him defensively. David Collins gives up three inches to him in height but has been very strong defensively since joining the Tigers. Hunter Tyson, at 6-8, gives you more height, but perhaps not the same quickness.
Clemson is having a great year shooting the 3-ball and currently ranks 6th nationally with a 41.8% from 3-point territory. Meanwhile, Drake ranks just 247th in 3-point percentage allowed. The Tigers should get some chances and need to capitalize. Both teams play a slow tempo so every possession will be at a premium. KenPom gives Clemson a 57% chance to win while ESPN’s Basketball Power Index gives them an optimistic 64.1%. Drake is ranked 75th in KenPom’s team rankings and would be the Tigers' strongest win of the season. We’ll see if they can get the season back on the right track on Saturday.