When: Saturday 12pm
The Tigers had a clunker game up at Syracuse on Wednesday, snapping that 5 game winning streak and reminding all of us how bad, at times, this team can look. However, a very impressive top 6 ACC finish is still very much in the cards heading into this final game with Pittsburgh. Overall this season has been a success and an NCAA bid is all but assured for the first time in three seasons (and only the third time in Brownell’s tenure). All that remains is a game the Tigers are favored to win over Pittsburgh at home. Clemson sits at 15-6 overall and 9-6 in the league. The Tigers will have a winning ACC record, always a good thing, and could/should hit the 10 win mark. That is something that has happened very few times in the history of Clemson basketball.
In order to get that 10th league win, senior leaders Aamir Simms and Clyde Trapp have to rebound from poor games at Syracuse. The team has to have one of these guys produce to beat teams in this league. Guys like Hunter Tyson, Nick Honor, Alex Hemenway, Jonathan Baehre, and even Al-Amir Dawes are not able to carry this team without Simms or Trapp playing like they are capable. Trapp in particular has been mired in an offensive slump the last few games after playing the best ball of his career just before that. Trapp doesn’t need to score big and really doesn’t have the game for that, but he does need to be that Swiss Army knife that rebounds well, defends well, and, most importantly, makes plays off the bounce. Aamir Simms provides the vast majority of Clemson’s inside punch on offense and a great deal of the system runs through him. When we see scoring droughts for this team, it usually coincides with Simms not getting touches in the paint.
Simms will be matched up with one of the leaders for the ACC Player of the Year award in Justin Champagnie, who has been a double/double machine this season. The recent departure of star guard Xavier Johnson has put even more pressure on Champagnie to lead the Panther attack. I’m sure both teams will be hoping to get the other’s star in foul trouble, and it will be a very interesting battle to watch.
Clemson will need to keep Pitt off the offensive glass, which is an area they can hurt the Tigers. Pitt’s metrics are better than their record, and they did take out a very good Virginia Tech team this season, beat Duke and swept Syracuse. They don’t shoot particularly well and Johnson was a major creator for them that no longer exists. That should ease the defensive burden for the Tigers on the perimeter for sure.
Pitt hasn’t won a ton of games and are just 6-9 in the ACC, but they have been very competitive and hard to blow out. They have only lost by more than 10 once all season. Clemson will likely have to grind it out to secure this win, much like they had to do vs. Miami back on February 27th. A win should mean at least a sixth place finish in the ACC heading into the tournament.
KenPom likes Clemson 67-62 with 70% confidence. I always look to see if Clemson can get to 60 points first, which is almost always a sign they are winning the game.