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Clemson Basketball: Pitt Preview / Open Thread

The Tigers take on the Panthers in a battle of the two biggest surprises in the ACC.

Clemson v Virginia Tech Photo by Ryan Hunt/Getty Images

Clemson (12-3, ACC 3-0) vs Pitt (11-4)

Pitt Roster

Pitt Starters

Position Number Player Class Height Weight Hometown Former Team
Position Number Player Class Height Weight Hometown Former Team
Center 33 Federiko Federiko So 6'11" 220 Helsinki, Finland Northern Oklahoma
Forward 2 Blake Hinson Jr 6'7" 235 Deltona, FL Iowa State
Guard 11 Jamarius Burton Sr 6'4" 200 Charlotte, NC Texas Tech
Guard 3 Greg Elliott Sr 6'3" 180 Detroit, MI Marquette
Point Guard 0 Nelly Cummings Sr 6'0" 185 Midliand, PA Colgate

Pitt Bench

Position Number Player Class Height Weight Hometown Former Team
Position Number Player Class Height Weight Hometown Former Team
Guard 22 Nike Sabande Sr 6'4" 185 Indianapolis, IN Miami (OH)
Forward/Center 25 Guillermo Diaz Graham Fr 7'0" 205 Canary Islands, Spain
Forward/Center 31 Jorge Diaz Graham Fr 6'11" 205 Canary Islands, Spain

Pitt on Offense

The Panthers play 4 out around Federiko Federiko (not a mistake, thank you very much grammar check). They keep the lane open for drives to the basket. Federiko posts, but he mainly functions as a rebounder and someone to occupy the opposing center. According to KenPom, they have the 43rd most efficient offense in the nation (110) and play mid-tempo basketball (161st). 43.7% of their shots attempts are from behind the arc, and are a respectable offensive rebounding team at 59th in the nation, mainly because their guards and wings aren’t afraid to crash the glass, and catch defenders watching the ball and not blocking out.

Blake Hinson, an Iowa State transfer, is the Panthers' leading scorer. He’ll remind you a little of Hunter Tyson. He thrives on drive and kicks for 3 point opportunities, but isn’t afraid to take it to the rim or swoop in for an offensive rebound if the opportunity presents its self. He has attempted 88 3’s on the season and hit 31 (35%). To put that in perspective, Hunter Tyson leads Clemson in 3 point attempts with 76. Hinson has the bright green light from 3. Clemson can’t help off him and recover. He’s tall and has a quick, high release that isn’t bothered by close outs. If the Tigers over help on drive, they will get punished.

When Hinson isn’t bombing away from deep, guard Jamarius Burton is attacking the rim. In Pitt’s upset of North Carolina, he went off for 31 points on 14-17 shooting, and only attempted one 3 point shot (he missed it). I’m not sure that last times I’ve seen a guard hit 30 points without hitting a single 3. In a game of analytics driven, AAU cyborgs, Burton has a unique game that makes him difficult to guard. He’s a physical guard that uses an array of step throughs, floaters, and rim attacks to score. If Pitt thinks he has a mismatch, they won’t hesitate to post him up against a smaller guard. He’s a fun/terrifying to watch when he’s not playing your team.

While Hinson and Burton are the focus of the offense, point guard Nelly Cummings isn’t afraid to hoist up a shot either. Like Hinson, he has the bright green light from the perimeter, and has attempted 79 3 pointers on the season, hitting 27 (34%). He went off on Syracuse in Pitts win, going 6-11 from 3, scoring 22 points. He’s also in the top 100 in the nation in assist rate (29%).

Pitt on Defense

The Panthers play conservative, man-to-man defense. They’re a respectable 89th in the nation in defensive efficiency. The good new is they’re not good at turning teams over they’re 273rd in the nation in turnover percentage. They want to stay in front of you and hit contested shots. They switch most screen action. That allows them to stay tight on the perimeter and make teams beat them off the dribble instead of behind the arc. Opponents are only shooting 29% from behind 3 against Jason Capel’s crew, good for 41st in the nation.

I’ll be interested to see if they treat P.J. Hall the same way they treated Bacot in their win over North Carolina. When he touched the ball in the post, it was an auto-double, usually coming from the strong side guard. I assume that will be the case, because Federiko Federiko can’t hang with P.J. one on one, and the Panthers can’t afford to get him in foul trouble. They have the Graham brothers off the bench in post, but both are freshmen and in desperate need of multiple sandwiches. They have nice length and athleticism, but P.J. (or anyone else) should bully them in the paint.

X-Factor - Foul Trouble

Clemson doesn’t have much depth, although Godfrey and Middlebrooks have shown signs recently. Pitt has no depth. They bring one guard off the bench, and they have the gangly Graham brothers in the post. That’s it. They play 8 guys, and Chapel would prefer to only play 6 if possible.

The Tigers have to force things towards the basket and pick up fouls early. If Chase Hunter, Hunter Tyson, and P.J. Hall can get things going towards the basket in the first half, they will find things much easier late in the game.

The reverse, of course, is also true. While the bench has been better for the Tigers, it’s far from good or reliable. Hopefully the young guards continue to mature, but if Pitt gets Tyson or Hall in foul trouble, it could be a long afternoon for the Tigers.


This is a huge game for the Tigers. We all know how the ACC works. If this team wants to make the tournament, it needs to knock off other mid-tier teams like Pitt. The Tigers and Panthers are two of the hottest teams in the ACC right now. Brad Brownell and company need to continue to stack wins while the roster his mostly healthy, because if I know my Clemson basketball, attrition is an inevitability during the ACC slate.

Veteran teams do better than young teams on the road, and the Tigers are led by juniors and seniors. Chase Hunter, Hunter Tyson, and P.J. Hall need to lead this team to victory. Hunter Tyson is one of the hottest players in the nation right now, and that needs to continue for the Tigers to put together two straight road wins. If they pull this out, we’ll be (dare I say it) talking about ranked Clemson next week.

I’m not going to lie. I still don’t know what to expect from this team, but they’ve more than bounced back from the head scratching losses to South Carolina and Loyola Chicago.



Pitt - 73

Clemson - 71

Confidence - 42%


Pitt - 73

Clemson - 71

This feels like cheating, but I like KenPom’s take on this game. It’s a match up featuring two similar teams. If it’s in Littlejohn, I would flip my prediction, but I don’t have a ton of confidence in this team winning back-to-back close road games.

Hopefully I’m wrong. I’ve certainly been wrong before. This team almost has me believing, but I’ve been hurt too many times to fully commit just yet.