Clemson (11-9, 3-6 ACC) vs Florida State (13-7, 6-4 ACC)
When: 7 PM EST
What Channel: ACCN
Where: Littlejohn Coliseum - Dabo Swinney, South Carolina
The good news is Clemson has played much better basketball in their last 2 games after playing some of the worst basketball imaginable in the Notre Dame, Boston College, Syracuse dumpster fire run of games. The bad news is they lost one of those 2 games to Duke in the most predictable game in the history of college basketball.
More good news for Clemson. The ACC is not good this year. The next 11 games feature exactly 1 team ranked in the top 25. In fact, in terms of KenPom rankings, North Carolina is the 2nd best team in the ACC, coming in at 34th. If there is any season where a team can get hot in the back end of the ACC schedule and rack up wins, it’s this season. The bad news is this team has shown no indications they are capable of stringing together wins, and they have 0 wiggle room down the stretch.
If they have designs on making the tournament (hold up y’all, I need to catch my breath from laughing) they probably need to hit 20 wins (combined ACC schedule and ACC tournament) to even be in the conversation. They have 11 regular-season games left. Interestingly enough, KenPom has Clemson favored in all but 2 games (Duke and FSU on the road) and the FSU game is considered a toss-up. As much as it feels like the season is over, there is still a chance for a miracle turnaround. I’ll foolishly hold onto hope until there is no hope left to hold onto.
This is not a vintage FSU team. They’re currently ranked 78th according to Ken Pom, and are on a two-game losing streak, with losses to Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech. Their guard play leaves much to be desired and they don’t have a guy that can take over as they have in the past. Their game plan mostly involves bludgeoning the other team on the inside with their NBA size (minus the NBA skill).
Their offense is ranked 90th in efficiency, which is way off the pace for the Noles, and their normally stifling defense has also fallen off. Their defensive efficiency is sitting at 72nd in the nation. To put that in perspective, they finished 33rd in 2021, 15th in 2020, and 10th in 2019. They’re ranked 211th in the nation in 3 point defense, which plays into Clemson’s hands. They’re 17th in the nation at defending the 2, but Clemson doesn’t want to shoot inside the arc anyway.
This game is a must-win for the Tigers, and they’re more than capable of winning it.
Clemson Shooting vs FSU Size
Clemson is ranked 12th in the nation in 3 point shooting. As I mentioned above, FSU is ranked 211th in 3 point defense. Clemson has to dominate the game with their perimeter shooters and do whatever is necessary to compete inside the arc. This is a classic battle of styles. You’ve got a small, quick Clemson team built around shooting against a big, lumbering FSU team built around scoring in the paint.
As I’ve written in every Clemson preview this season, P.J. Hall has to stay on the floor for the Tigers to have a chance. He’s the only one that can compete against FSU’s massive frontcourt featuring 7’1” power forward John Butler and 7’4” center Naheem McLeod. I wouldn’t call Butler or McLeod good at basketball, but they’re giant men, and that’s still an important skill. If Hall is in foul trouble, FSU will crush Clemson on the boards. Even if Hall isn’t in foul trouble, FSU will probably crush Clemson on the boards, but not so much that Clemson can’t overcome the deficit with their 3 point shooting. I expect FSU to attack P.J. early on offense with their giants and try to get him off the floor.
Clemson Wins If...
They get hot and stay hot from 3. They’re currently shooting 39% from deep and will need to hit or go over their average to win this game. They need to take 3’s and they need to make 3’s because FSU’s size is going to make it hard for Clemson to finish on the inside. The Tigers have the shooters, at every position, to get the job done, but they’re going to need at least 3 guys to be hot on the same night. If we get a bad Dawes, Honor, or Collins shooting game, it’s all over.
FSU Wins If...
They punish Clemson inside. The Tigers have 1 center on their roster capable of competing against the FSU giants. If Hall gets in foul trouble and has to sit for any extended amount of time, this thing could get ugly. In fact, Brad should probably try and utilize his time outs to maximize Hall’s ability to stay on the court. I would rather burn a timeout and let Hall get a quick rest than sub him out of the game. If Schieffelin and Middlebrooks play more than 10 minutes combined, FSU wins.
It’s never a good sign when a game played on February 2nd is considered a must-win, but when you drop games to St. Bonaventure, Rutgers, Virginia, and Boston College (all ranked in the 90’s or below on Ken Pom) you end up playing must-win games at the start of February.
Clemson should win this game. They are the better basketball team in terms of skill. I just have no confidence that enough guys will show up to pull out a win.
I hope I’m wrong.
Clemson 72 - FSU 67 - 67% Confidence
I refuse to make any prediction. I have watched every Clemson game this year and have no idea which team is going to show up.