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Clemson Basketball: Florida State Preview

Facing a losing slump, the Tigers need to rally quickly.

NCAA Basketball: Boston College at Clemson Ken Ruinard-USA TODAY Sports

After a blistering 11-1 start, the Clemson Tigers have dropped four of their last five and are sitting at 12-5 overall, (2-4 ACC). Quad-1 losses to Memphis, North Carolina, and Miami were “acceptable” hits to take on the resume, but a near blowout against Virginia Tech and a double overtime collapse against a mediocre Georgia Tech team has knocked this team flat on its back.

The problems are plentiful, including the horrid 3-point shooting as of late (27% over their last five games), questionable Brownell coaching in late-game moments, and the continual disappearance of key players in crucial moments.

Nevertheless, the meat of the season’s schedule is still ahead of this team. If the group we saw play in November and December can find their groove again, an NCAA tournament berth is well within grasp. Clemson fans have to be wondering if this will be the final season for Brownell at the helm — failing to make the dance this year would almost certainly be the final straw.

The road to a March Madness invite continues on Saturday as the Tigers must travel to Tallahassee to take on a surging Florida State team. The Seminoles have won seven of their last eight games, including a big-time victory over Miami on Wednesday.

FSU is led by forward Jamir Watkins, a do-it-all junior who is leading FSU’s roster in points per game, rebounds, assists, and steals. Alongside him are guards Darin Green and Primo Spears. Green is averaging 12.3 PPG while shooting a ridiculous 40% from the arc. Spears is not nearly as deadly as Green from three, but still works the paint well and is averaging 11.3 PPG. Beyond that trio is the massive Baba Miller. At 6’11” Miller is not the fastest player on the court, but his size is a favorable matchup for whomever FSU wants him to cover.

NCAA Basketball: Florida State at Miami (FL)
Jamir Watkins is the leader of FSU’s offense.
Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

For Clemson, it all starts with PJ Hall. The senior is playing some of his best ball right now, going for 31 points and 17 rebounds in the loss against GA Tech. His presence can make or break the Tigers’ offense - he’s averaging a team-best 20 PPG and Clemson needs him to have another big game against the Seminoles for a win to be possible.

Joseph Girard has been a fantastic addition to Brownell’s roster, but like some of Clemson’s other stars, he can disappear in crucial moments. In the five losses, he averaged just 10.8 PPG, none worse than a 5-point showing against UNC. Still, he’s shooting 42% from three, and when he’s on, few can match him in the ACC.

Turnovers may be an issue on Saturday against Florida State, as they lead the ACC in steals per game largely via Watkins and Green. Clemson has averaged 10.4 turnovers per game in their five losses, so protecting the ball must be a focus.

Brownell squads are a dismal 3-10 at Florida State’s Tucker Center, and I don’t have much faith in this Clemson group correcting that on Saturday. KenPom gives Clemson a 53%chance to win, but the Tigers’ recent drop-off in performance hasn’t given me much hope for this matchup, and while I hope I’m wrong, my prediction reflects that decline:

Florida State: 77
Clemson: 70