Location: Littlejohn Coliseum - Clemson, SC
All we ask of Clemson basketball is to provide entertainment and hope — even if it is false hope — from the end of the chicken kickin’ that concludes football’s regular season to mid-February when Clemson baseball gets started.
They were 9-4 (1-1) on Christmas and seemed to be in well-enough shape to give us some fun and entertainment for a while, but when the calendar turned to 2022, their play turned sour and it is all Duke’s fault!
Clemson was scheduled to host the Blue Devils on December 29th. The Tigers were playing well and had a real shot at the upset — they’ve had recent success against Duke at home so it seemed feasible. Unfortunately, Duke postponed the game due to COVID issues in their program.
Clemson didn’t play from December 22nd to Jan 4th. After the long lay-off, they lost to Virginia at home, who they had just beat on the road. They recovered with a win at NC State (who we thought was good, but is actually just 10-15 now). Clemson then lost three in a row and six of eight to drop them to just 4-8 in ACC play.
The ACC schedule eases up a lot after this Duke game, but even a 5-2 finish after the Duke game would leave them at just 17-14 (9-11) if they don’t beat the Blue Devils. The NCAA tournament is out of the picture, but a loss to Duke would probably be the nail in the coffin for even making it to the NIT.
Alas, the Tigers must beat Duke even while missing one of their most important players. Although he was healthy when this contest was originally scheduled, Hunter Tyson is now injured and will not play against Duke. After PJ Hall, he is arguably Clemson’s best player.
PJ Hall will be battling 6-10 superstar freshman Paulo Banchero and 7-0 Mark Williams in the post. Hall managed 14 points and 10 rebounds in Clemson’s January 25th loss at Duke, but he was inefficient from the floor going 6-21. The Tigers need more from him, but also need a lot of help from the outside. Clemson’s guards need to knock down 3-pointers at a good clip and alleviate some pressure from the post.
Paolo Banchero is leading Duke in scoring with 17.2 points per game; he is a top-five projected NBA draft pick as a one-and-done. The 6-5 Wendell Moore is the guard I’ll have an eye on. He has made only one 3-pointer in his past five games but has 30 on the season coming with an excellent .390 3PT%. He is averaging 14 points per game.
Clemson will occasionally play really well at home so a win isn’t unthinkable. Duke just lost in Cameron Indoor to Virginia. Holding up in the post without Tyson Hunter will be extremely difficult, but if they somehow manage that and can get hot from 3, they could give Duke at least a scare.