When Brad Bownell took over at Clemson he inherited a talented team - Jerai Grant, Demontez Stitt, Andre Young, etc.. - and that first year they did enough to sneak into the NCAA tournament. But over the next two seasons, as Brownell gradually added his own recruits, Clemson wasn't a good team and they failed to advance to the post season. That didn't bode well for this year's team, as Devin Booker and Milton Jennings graduated. Booker was a beast, and the enigmatic Jennings had his moments. They entered the year ranked 96th by Pomeroy, and picked by the media and coaches to finish near the bottom of the ACC.
In out of conference they went 9-3, with losses to UMass, at Arkansas, and at Auburn. But they kept beating the spread in Vegas, and creeping up the board at kenpom.com. The reason was defense. They held their first 8 opponents below a point per possession, and some of the numbers were just silly. Coastal Carolina scored 40 points in a game that wasn't played slowly (66 possessions). Furman scored 35 points in 57 possessions.
Still, they lost to the only two top 100 teams they played. So what to make of Clemson (10-3, 1-0)?
A) Their defense is legit. They're ranked No. 7 nationally in defensive efficiency, and they're the No. 1 team in eFG% allowed. They're No. 1 in 3-pt% allowed, and No. 5 in 2-pt% allowed. This is a tough team to score on. Their weakness (if a No. 7 team has a weakness) is that they're just average at forcing turnovers and at defensive rebounding. FSU will have a tough time scoring on first shots, but how well they rebound their own misses will likely determine whether or not FSU leaves with a win.
2) Their offense is far from legit. Clemson is 202nd nationally in 3-pt%. They're a great free throw shooting team, but they're 289th at getting to the line. The one thing they do well which is of great concern is that - like FSU - they're a fantastic offensive rebounding team. FSU is 270th in defensive rebounding. So, like the key for FSU, the key for Clemson is extending possessions with offensive boards.
D) Their pace is terrible. FSU absolutely has to get out and run in order to win. Half court games have not gone well. So it's only fitting that four of the fifteen slowest teams in the nation (out of 351 Division I teams) are in the ACC. Only three teams in the nation are slower than Clemson (one of them is Miami, No. 351 of 351). The way the shot clock rules work in college basketball means that slow teams can control the tempo whenever they want. Fast teams do not have that same luxury. This will be a low possession game. This game will be decided by turnovers and offensive rebounds.
If - like the typical Seminole fan - all you care about is watching teams score, then this game will probably be hard to watch. These are two average offenses going against elite defenses. If you enjoy watching teams play with maximum effort, then this will be a fun game to watch. And the end result likely won't be determined by who has the most talent, or who has the best shooters. This is an effort game. To get to 1-1 in conference play, FSU has to go to Clemson and take it.
The game tips at 7pm and will be broadcast regionally on Fox Sports, as well as on ESPN3. Clemson is a 3-pt favorite in Vegas, and Pomeroy has Clemson -4.