Clemson Tigers 6-4 (0-1) (KenPom No. 49) vs. Miami RedHawks 5-3 (KenPom No. 120)
When: Tuesday, December 14th at 7:00pm
Location: Littlejohn Coliseum, Clemson, SC
TV: ACC Network Extra & ESPN+
The Tigers got a desperately needed non-conference victory last weekend in Atlanta over Drake. It snapped a two game losing streak and gave the Tigers their first over a top 100 team (per KenPom) after losing their four previous matchups against such opponents.
PJ Hall was the player of the game against Drake and will have another favorable matchup against a team without a ton of size on Tuesday. In fact, the RedHawks don’t just lack size in the post where they like to use 6-6 and 6-7 players, but at guard as well. Dae Dae Grant is their leading scoring averaging 15.4 points per game. He plays primarily on the wing and is 6-2. Their next leading scoring is their 5-8 point guard Mekhi Lairy. Taller guards can be tough on the 5-10 Nick Honor so this is advantageous. Still, that’s not to say Lairy isn’t dangerous. Some may remember just two years ago when 5-7 Chris Lykes from Miami of Florida scored 27 points in leading the Hurricanes to an overtime win at Clemson.
Although Miami of Ohio isn’t especially big, that doesn’t mean they’re not good. The RedHawks have already taken down an ACC team once this season. They won their season opener against Georgia Tech 72-69 in Atlanta. In that game, the 5-8 Lairy went off for 23 points. Fortunately, Nick Honor is a very strong defender. Watching those two square off will be the highlight of the game.
Miami also had Cincinnati on the ropes and held a lead late in that game, but ultimately lost by one point. They are currently riding a three-game losing streak.
For Clemson, PJ Hall, Al-Amir Dawes, David Collins, and Hunter Tyson are all averaging double-digit scoring. The Tigers currently lead the ACC in 3-point shooting at 41.9%. Last year they only averaged 34.5%. Replacing Clyde Trapp’s 35.1% with more shots from Alex Hemenway who is clicking at an incredible (and unsustainable) 47.4% is part of that. Nick Honor and Al-Amir Dawes are also shooting lights out with 3-point percentages above 44%. You have to expect this will come back to earth somewhat, but every game that it keeps up the more sustainable it feels. Hopefully the Tigers can move the ball and continue making the successful post-entry passes they did last weekend against Drake and avoid becoming stagnant or overly reliant on the 3-ball.
Winning this game is crucial. It would push Clemson to 7-4 before their toughest stretch of the season. While the back half of ACC play is very navigable for Clemson, the front half is brutal. After Miami of Ohio, they host U of SC in their final non-conference matchup. The Cocks seem much tougher than they did a week ago thanks to their comeback win over Florida State. After that they go to Virginia before hosting Duke and Virginia (again) in Littlejohn Coliseum. After that it is back-to-back road games at NC State and Notre Dame before things ease up.
KenPom gives Clemson an 80% chance to win this contest. ESPN’s Basketball Power Index gives them an 83.7% chance. The Tigers, especially being at home, should be able to notch this key win before the tough stretch ahead.