Clemson (14-15) vs Georgia Tech (11-18)
When: 7 PM EST
Where: The Best College Campus in the Southeast, SC
What Channel: ACCN
The Tigers enter this game on a two game heater despite lacking the services of future All-American P.J. Hall. Chase Hunter’s transformation from, “well, he was great in high school” to “is that Chaser Hunter? He’s a playing like a great college player” has been fun to watch over the last few games, and is worth the price of admission alone. The defense has tightened up and the offense has pulled itself out of the mid-season mire by spreading the floor and letting the guards attack downhill.
In a weird way, missing Hall may help this team. I feel like some of the guard regression can be attributed to playing with Aamir Simms last year, as opposed to P.J. Hall the season. I personally think P.J. has the higher upside, but he’s a totally different player. Small guards like Dawes and Honor need an open floor to do their thing, and now they’ve got it. Schieffelin is more of an opportunistic player who scores outside of the offense, and Ben Middlebrooks’s main job is to stay out of the way and rebound. Plunking a post player that needs the ball in the middle of the offense, while in theory good, may have had some secondary effects on the guards we didn’t anticipate. Dawes, in particular, has looked like an entirely different player with more freedom. Honor has gone from basically unplayable to the reliable guard we’re accustomed to seeing.
I mentioned Chase Hunter above, but this has suddenly turned into his team. He is attacking the rim, and putting defenders on notice. He’s another guy that benefits from a more open court without a post player in the lane. Clemson has finally found a physical guard capable of getting to the rim and finishing, and he’s doing so at an incredibly efficient rate.
Don’t get it twisted, this isn’t a P.J. Hall problem, he’s the future. It’s more of a Clemson guard and coaching problem. Hall being out finally forced this team into having a single identity on offense (guardcentric, floor spread) as opposed to the mix and match (part power post, part floor spread) attempted during the dark days. The fact that P.J. wasn’t able to practice for quite a long time nursing his busted foot probably didn’t help offensive cohesion either. Having a busted foot probably didn’t help Hall’s play (although he was still very good) either.
The Tigers have a chance to build momentum heading into the ACC tournament, and then, given the current state of ACC,
lose in the first round in heart breaking fashion, make some noise. There is only one good team in the ACC and Clemson gave them all they wanted in their first go around. I’m going to stop now before I say anything else stupid.
Tech is not a good basketball team. They’re not even an average basketball team. They are a bad basketball team. Of course, that didn’t mean anything in their first matchup with the Tigers, which they won 69-64. That was more of a Clemson playing like refried dog vomit issue than a Tech being good issue though. Tech is ranked 168th in Ken Pom, and has one of the most inefficient offenses in college basketball (ranked 262 in offensive efficiency). Since knocking off Clemson on February 5th, they’ve been putrid, losing 6 of their last 7, with their lone win against equally brutal Pittsburgh. Notre Dame beat them by 34 points in their last attempt to play basketball.
They do posses Clemson kryptonite though...tall wing players that can shoot. Michael Devoe, a 6’5” wing, leads them in scoring, putting up 18 a game. Jordan Usher, a 6’7” wing is next in line, putting up 14 a game. The Tigers have struggled mightily with big wings because they don’t have any big wings (which is a problem in modern college basketball). David Collins does his best, but he’s not exactly a lock down defender, and there is only one of him. The Tigers weird roster composed of combo guards and post players struggles to guard on the wing because guys like Devoe and Usher can shoot over their small guards and drive past their post players. This could be an issue tonight as well.
Keys to the Game
If the Tigers corral Devoe, and the offense continues to look...dare I say decent, this should be a Clemson victory. Hunter is more than capable of gutting the Tech defense and opening up perimeter shots or finishing at the rim. Tech doesn’t have any real rim protectors.
Tech has only hit 70 points twice (both in losses) over the last 7 games. If Clemson can get to 70, which they have in their last 2 games. This might be a double digit win. Georgia Tech wants this thing to be a rock fight played in the low 60s. The Tigers need to push the tempo and not let that happen. The scoring combo of Hunter and Dawes paired with support from Collins and Honor should get the Tigers where they need to get.
Ken Pom: Clemson 74 - Georgia Tech 64
Drew: Clemson 80 - Georgia Tech 64
Tigers roll over a bad team.