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Clemson Basketball: Duke Preview

Scrappy underdog Duke will try and pull the upset over the ACC leading Tigers on Saturday. A true David and Goliath Matchup.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: JAN 11 Louisville at Clemson Photo by John Byrum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

#24 Duke (13-4, ACC 4-2) vs Clemson (14-3, ACC 6-0)

January 14th, 5 PM EST

Littlejohn Coliseum - Clemson, South Carolina (the real Carolina)

TV: ACC Network

Duke Roster

Duke Starters

Position Number Player Class Height Weight Hometown Former Team
Position Number Player Class Height Weight Hometown Former Team
Center 30 Kyle Filipowski Fr 7'0" 230 Westtown N.Y.
Forward 15 Ryan Young Sr 6'10" 235 Stewartsville, N.J. Northwestern
Wing 25 Mark Mitchell Fr 6'8" 220 Kansas City, KS
Wing 31 Dariq Whitehead Fr 6'7" 220 Newark, N.J.
Point Guard 5 Tyrese Proctor Fr 6'5" 175 Sydney, Australia

Duke Bench

Position Number Player Class Height Weight Hometown Former Team
Position Number Player Class Height Weight Hometown Former Team
Guard/Wing 13 Jacob Grandison Sr 6'6" 190 Oakland, CA Illinois
Point Guard 2 Jaylen Blakes So 6'2" 200 Somerset, N.J.
Forward/Wing 1 Dereck Lively Fr 7'1" 230 Philadelphia, PA

Duke on Offense

This is not a vintage Duke team on offense. They’re a respectable 37th in the nation in offensive efficiency at 111.9, but that’s 36 spots behind their nation leading offensive efficiency from last season. They play at a slow 66.3 (259 nationally) adjusted temp, and their average possession length of 17.9 seconds (234) is slower than Clemson’s 17.1 average. That’s not something you normally see in this game.

The drop off comes from their inability to hit shots and penchant for turnovers. They’re only hitting 49.9%(184 nationally) of their 2 point attempts and 31.9%(262) of their 3’s. That’s good for a 49.2%(219) effective field goal percentage. To compound missed shots, they turn the ball over in 19%(202) of their possessions. It’s unusual, to say the least, to see a Duke team that can’t hit shots or hold onto the ball.

Their saving grace is offensive rebounds. They put a huge team on the court, and turn that size into dominance on the offensive glass. Their 39% offensive rebounding percentage is the 5th best in the nation.

Freshman center Kyle Filipowski is their go-to player. In theory, he’s a unicorn 7’0” freshman with handles capable of scoring at all 3 levels. Think a less athletic Chet Holmgren (that’s not an insult, Holmgren is a freak of nature). In reality, he’s a skinny post player that shoots 26% from 3, and yet continues to pull from deep. He’s attempted 57 3’s and only hit 15. Clemson should encourage him to shoot from the outside and double him in the paint. He leads Duke with 43 turnovers, and he tends to panic in the post when his first move gets shut down. I’m not that concerned about his offensive ability, but he can hurt Clemson on the glass. He’s Duke’s best defensive rebounder, and uses his freakishly long limbs to tap the ball out or to himself on the offensive boards. He’s one of those players you can box out and he can still snag a board, or tap it to a teammate. I like P.J. Hall on him all game. My only concern is foul trouble, Filipowski will put the ball on the floor and make P.J. move his feet. Hall can’t get caught reaching, because we know the Duke whistle is strong, even without Coach K scurrying around.

Filipowski is the clear alpha dog on offense, and with point Jeremy Roach out with a toe injury, there is no clear #2. Ryan Young is a traditional post player who plays hard, but like Filipowski, his best offense comes from offensive rebounding. Mark Mitchell is Duke’s best outside shooter, but he doesn’t shoot much. He’s a nice matchup for Hunter Tyson as long as he doesn’t over help and give Mitchell room to pull from deep. Dariq Whitehead is an uber talented player at least a season away from being a good basketball player. Tyrese Proctor has been forced into the starting lineup with Roach out, and he’s not ready. He’s attempted 62 3’s and only hit 15. Much like Filipowski, Clemson should play off and encourage Proctor to chuck bricks at the rim from the perimeter.

Overall, Clemson’s big lineup matches up well against Duke. The Blue Devils miss a bunch of shots, if Clemson can keep them from rebounding those misses and turning them into easy points, I like their chances.

Duke on Defense

Slaps Floor! - Breaks Wrist

Duke’s defense is similar to their offense. It’s Ok, but no one is going to confuse this with a good Duke defense. They’re 94.6 adjusted defensive efficiency is a solid 35th in the nation. They mostly play straight up man, and they’re not particularly good at it. They have a ton of length, but don’t look connected, and let guards get into the paint.

One place they excel is defending the 3 point arc. They’ve got a bunch of skinny, long armed dudes that can fly at shooters and make pulling the trigger difficult. Clemson’s shooters need to be ready to pull on the catch, because Duke can erase open looks. The good news is all these long armed dudes are S.O.F.T. on the inside. NC State’s man/mountain DJ Burns scored 18 points in 16 minutes of play, on 7-10 shooting. Duke’s stick figure post players (Young being the exception) had no answer for the 6’9”, 275 pound burns.

In fact, pretty much any center with a pulse has victimized Duke in their losses. Wake’s 7’1”, 250 pound sophomore Matthew Marsh put up 10 points on 5-5 shooting. He averages 6.5 points a game. Purdue’s 7’4”, 300 pound giant Zach Edey (the largest Canadian in word on if he’s bigger than a Yeti) kicked off his National Player of the Year campaign against the Blue Devils, going 7-13 for 21 points, and looking at what other big men have done against Duke, it is one of Edey’s more disappointing outings. James Wilson, a 6’8”, 225 pound forward, on Kansas went 0-7 from 3 against Duke and still led the Jayhawks with 25 points, because he went 11-19 from 2, including 5 offensive boards.

I love this matchup for Clemson. The Tigers want to play big with Hall, Tyson, and Shieffelin starting in the front court, and Duke struggles against big, physical teams. Hall, in particular could be a huge problem for the Blue Devils if he decides to drag Filipowski into the paint, because the scrawny freshman wants no part of an athletic 6’10”, 245. Don’t discount Ben Middlebrooks coming off the bench and inflicting damage in this game either. He’s got the type of tough, around the rim, game that Duke hasn’t stopped all season.

The game plan for Clemson is simple. Pound the ball into the post, and keep doing it until Duke starts to double, and then kick out to open shooters. Or better yet, kick it out, repost, and go at their “bigs” again, because they haven’t been up to the task all season, and I don’t anticipate them suddenly gaining weight and playing tough for this game. These are AAU all-stars (Young again being the exception) that want to dance around on the perimeter and work on their euro-step and 3 point shot. They still don’t know what to do when a player bumps into them other than to flop on the floor and stare at the ref.

Clemson needs to make this a physical game on both ends of the court.

X-Factor - Hot Start

Clemson needs to come out and play the Duke team, not the Duke jersey. NC State came out early, hit a 15-0 run and never looked back. Whatever mythical “Duke” psychological advantage was gone 5 minutes into the game. Clemson needs to do the same thing.

This Duke team has a ton of quit in them. I watched Purdue dismantle them early in the year. I kept waiting for the Blue Devils to bow up and make a run, but they never did. Purdue walked away with a 19 point win that wasn’t as competitive as the final score indicates. Wake Forest, an otherwise bad team, beat Duke in 3 of the 4 10 minute periods of the game. Including taking a 9 point lead into the locker room at halftime. Once again, Duke didn’t make a run to close the gap. The Demon Deacons kept them at arms length, and ended up with an 11 point win.

If Clemson can put up points early, get the home crowd off their rear ends and on their feet, and not worry about the name on the front of the jersey, I’m not sure if this Duke team has enough grit to fight back.

I’d love to find out if my hypothesis is correct.



Clemson - 71

Duke - 70


Clemson - 77

Duke - 68

Sorry y’all, I’ve picked against Clemson in two straight games, and the Tigers have won both. This time, I’m going with the home standing Tigers. Duke doesn’t play well against big experienced front courts, and Clemson has one of those. P.J. Hall will bully Filipowski and put him on the bench, and then he’ll bully Dereck Lively off the bench. It’s in Clemson’s best interest to put up a few points, because Ryan Young is the only tough player Duke has, and he’s an anchor on offense. You can score him off the floor.

This, of course, means some dude I’ve never heard of before will shoot 8-8 from 3 on his way to a life high 35 points and Clemson will lose by 1 point on a last second Duke shot that comes up short, bounces off P.J. Hall’s head, and into the basket with no time remaining.

Such is life for a Clemson basketball fan.