Clemson (19-7, ACC 11-4) vs Louisville (3-23, ACC 1-14)
Back in action tonight‼️ ⚪️#ClemsonGRIT Louisville— Clemson Basketball (@ClemsonMBB) February 18, 2023
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Louisville on Offense
I’m looking for Louisville's “strength” on offense, and I’m at a loss. I write previews for 3 different conferences, and this is the worst major conference team I’ve written about. They’re not awful at 3-point shooting, hitting 33.8% of their attempts, good for 195th in the nation according to KenPom. They’re also no terrible at free throw shooting, knocking down 72.7% from the line (144th). In summary, they can occasionally shoot the ball. Clemson shouldn’t let them get hot from 3 (gulp). That’s the only way they win this game.
They are one of the worst teams, in terms of taking care of the ball in the nation. They turn the ball over like it’s the object of the game. 23% of their possessions end in a turnover, good for 357th (out of 361) in the nation. They are equal opportunity offenders, with 10.5% of their possessions ending in steals and 12.4% ending in other turnovers (charge, shot clock violation, throwing the ball into the stands, etc). Even when they figure out how to throw the ball in the general direction of the basket, the ball is sent back 10.6% of the time (309th).
6’3”, 180 pound guard El Ellis is their first, second, and third option on on offense. He averages 17.6 points a game. He’s the only player averaging over 10 points a game. That makes sense, because he takes all the shots. Ellis has attempted 371 field goals this season, second place on the squad goes to forward Jae’Lyn Withers, who has attempted 192 shots. Needless to say (but I’m going to say it anyway) Clemson should focus their efforts on slowing down Ellis. No helping off, no letting him leak out on a fast break, nothing easy at the rim. The Tigers held him to 12 points on 4-16 shooting in their first contest, but Ellis has been on a heater recently. Last time out he put up 21 points on UVA in a narrow 61-58 loss. That was down from the 33 he gave to Miami on February 11th in a narrowish 93-85 loss to Miami. If Clemson loses this game, it’s because Ellis goes off for big numbers.
Louisville on Defense
As bad as Louisville is on offense, they may be worse on defense. They give up an effective field goal percentage of 54.3 (334th). That includes giving up 35.8% from 3 (282nd) and 54.7% from 2 (337th). One way to mitigate opponents hitting a high percentage of shots is to force turnovers, but they don’t do that well either. They create turnovers 16.3% of the time (299th), which includes a ridiculously low 7% steal rate (340th). Folks, this isn’t a good team by any metric.
Hunter Tyson went off for 28 in the first match-up but has cooled off significantly since his hot start of the season. He’s averaging a little over 7 points a game in February, and hasn’t been looking for his shot. It appears the frustratingly passive version of Hunter Tyson has reared his ugly head again. This would be the perfect game for him to break out of his funk, but I’m not confident. Instead, I think P.J. Hall continues his solid form and leads the Tigers from the post (with an occasional 3 that he doesn’t fall in love with). Louisville is weak in the paint. Clemson, in theory, is strong with Hall, Schieffelin, and Tyson. Seems like a good place for the Tigers to attack. My only fear is a cold shooting night from the perimeter. When Clemson misses 3’s, they tend to take more for unknown reasons.
X-Factor - Road Game
Louisville is awful, but they’re not awful at home. They gave #7 Virginia a run for their money, 61-58, the last time out. They lost to Florida State by 2 (81-78) on February 4th, and knocked off Georgia Tech 68-58 on February 1st. In context of their season, this is the best they’ve played.
Meanwhile Clemson remains maddening inconsistent on the road. If the Clemson team that showed up at Boston College and set the entire game of basketball back with a 17 turnover, 4 assist performance (that could be an assist/turnover record) while only scraping together 54 points, shows up tonight, Clemson will lose. I’m not as confident as I should be heading into this game because I’ve been burned too many times by a late season Clemson collapse. They must take care of business on the road tonight, because they still have road tilts against N.C. State and Virginia remaining. They’ll be underdogs in both of those games.
Clemson - 78
Louisville - 65
Confidence - 85%
Clemson - 61
Louisville - 57
I kinda want to pick Louisville in this game, but I think it’s because I’m suffering from Clemson P.T.S.D. This is a game Clemson should win, and I think (hope?pray?) they take care of business tonight. Ellis stays hot, and Clemson falls in love with 3 pointers despite not hitting any, but the Tigers pull it out in the end. Louisville is bad, and Clemson, at times can be...good (and can also be dreadful).
I’ve got the Tigers by 4. I hope the Tigers win by 20.