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Clemson Basketball: NC State Preview

Clemson resumes their ACC slate at home against NC State on Friday.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: DEC 21 Clemson at Georgia Tech Photo by Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

NC State (11-3, 1-2 ACC) vs Clemson (10-3, 2-0 ACC)

Friday, December 30th - 4 PM EST

Littlejohn Coliseum (Home to your undefeated (in the ACC) Clemson Tigers), Clemson, SC

TV - ACC Network

NC State Roster

NC State Starters

Position # Player Class Height Weight Hometown Previous Team
Position # Player Class Height Weight Hometown Previous Team
Center 30 DJ Burns Jr. Sr 6'9" 275 Rock Hill, SC Winthrop
Forward 5 Jack Clark Sr 6'8" 200 Cheltenham, PA La Salle
Guard 14 Casey Morsell Sr 6'3" 200 Ft. Washington, MD Virginia
Guard 1 Jarkel Joiner Sr 6'1" 180 Oxford, MS Ole Miss
Point Guard 0 Terquavion Smith So 6'4" 165 Greenville, NC

NC State Bench

Position # Player Class Height Weight Hometown Previous Team
Position # Player Class Height Weight Hometown Previous Team
Guard 4 LJ Thomas Fr 6'2" 205 Plant City, FL
Center 21 Ebenezer Dowuona Jr 6'11" 225 Accra, Ghana
Forward 24 Ernest Ross So 6'9" 195 Alachua, FL

NC State on Offense

The Wolfpack are a solid offensive squad this season. They’re ranked 36th in the nation in adjusted offensive efficiency according to KenPom. They don’t do any one thing well, but are decent at everything when it comes to scoring. Their 54% effective field goal percentage is ranked 59th in the nation. That includes shooting 36% from 3 (82nd) and 53% from 2-point territory (71st). The one area they excel is valuing the basketball. Coach Kevin Keatts runs a 3 guard lineup, which helps limit turnovers. Their 16% turnover percentage is good for 20th in the nation.

They’re reliant on their guard play to score. Sophomore point guard Terquavion Smith leads the way for the Pack, averaging 18 points, dishing out 5.4 assists, and shooting 36% from 3. Jarkel Joyner isn’t far behind, averaging 16 points, 3.3 assists, and hitting 37% from deep. The third guard, Casey Morsell averages 14 points and hits an incendiary 49% from outside the arc.

The Pack lost starting center Dusan Mahorcic to a knee injury five games back, forcing Winthop transfer DJ Burns into the starting lineup. At 6’9”, 275, Burns is a monster in the paint, and has put together three impressive games since being inserted into the starting lineup. Against Miami he up up 16 points and 8 rebounds, on 50% shooting. He put up 18 and 9 vs Vanderbilt on 67% shooting, and put up 17 points on 80% shooting, against Louisville. He’s an old school low post bruiser who only ventures outside the lane to set screens.

Finally, Jack Clark rounds out the starting lineup. He does a little bit of everything for Kevin Keatts as a stretch 4. His style of play is similar to Clemson’s Hunter Tyson. He can hit from deep (36%) and leads the Wolfpack in rebounds, grabbing 5.3 rebounds per contest. Look for him to set up shop in the corner and provide an easy outlet for Burns, should Clemson chose to double team.

In NC State’s win over Louisville, they either played 4 out around DJ Burns or 3 out around Burns, with Clark providing weak side rebounding. I expect the same against Clemson. Burns is a load and PJ Hall will need to put in work early to keep him from embedding in the paint. Once he gets position, it’s a make or miss proposition, he uses his wide frame to create space for his array of hook shots, power moves. He’s been making more than missing in the last few games.

While the recent shift to an inside power game has held down some of the Pack guards, they’re dangerous in transition, and won’t hesitate to pull from deep early in the clock. If Burns doesn’t get the position he wants, he’ll come up the lane and run pick and roll with Terquavion Smith. Once Smith gets downhill, he’s tough to stop. He can finish at the rim, hit spot up shooters if the defense collapses, and will deal to Burns on the roll.

NC State on Defense

NC State is average on defense, giving a 49% effective field goal rate (129th). They’ve allowed teams to shoot 31.5% (105th) from deep and 49% (153rd) from inside the arc. Collectively they block 12% (68th) of attempted shots, but don’t have much rim protection. Burns is light on his feet for a 275 pounder, but he’s not an eraser in the back end. The best facet of their defense is steals. Their guards will shoot passing lanes, and turn lazy passes into transition points. Jack Clark, in particular, uses his long arms disrupt passes.

Kevin Keatts employs a 34 man press after a score. It’s not necessarily designed to turn teams over (it does on occasion), but makes it hard for the opposing offense to get comfortable in their sets. Once a team makes it to the half court, they play standard man to man defense. It’s nothing special and can be exploited by good guards.

In a loss to Miami, the Hurricane starting back court tortured them. Jordan Miller put up 25 points and Isaiah Wong poured in 23. Pitt guard Jamarius Burton tossed in 24 points in a Panther victory. Kansas freshman guard Gradey Dick hit a season high of 25 in a Jayhawk victory over the Pack, including hitting 6-12 from deep.

Clemson will need their guards to step up and provide scoring in this game.

Clemson Wins If...

PJ Hall wins his match up against DJ Burns on offense and defense. He has to guard the Wolfpack’s hefty center without fouling, and then punish him off the dribble on offense. If PJ can get Burns into foul trouble, there isn’t much off the bench to replace him. PJ was dominant against Georgia Tech. He’ll need to be dominate against the NC State if the Tigers want to keep their post Loyola Chicago loss momentum going.

If Hall dominates, Clemson will still need points out of their perimeter players. Against Tech, Chase Hunter, Hunter Tyson, and Brevin Galloway all chipped in 14 points. If they can get something out of a gimpy Alex Hemenway (missed Georgia Tech with plantar fasciitis, an injury that is notorious for lingering) it would be much appreciated. The Tigers are going to need points, and there isn’t much scoring punch off the bench.

On defense, it’s all about playing Burns with one guy and plastering to shooters. When NC State gets a team in transition, their 3 guards tend to make the the correct play. It’s up to Hall and Middlebrooks to hold down the paint and make Burns score outside his comfort area.



Clemson - 76

NC State - 74

58% confidence


Clemson - 64

NC State - 71

I still don’t have faith in the consistency of this team. A win against NC State would go a long way to changing my mind. I’m concerned Clemson won’t have an answer for Burns and PJ will get in foul trouble. If that happens, I don’t think the guards can score enough to win.

I hope I’m wrong.