There is little room for error in the ACC anymore. Outside of Duke, who currently sits at 7-2 in conference play, the race to the top or the bottom of the ACC is still up for grabs. Maryland sits in second place at 6-2, but still has to face Duke twice, Virginia twice and welcome both Clemson and Georgia Tech to College Park. That 6-2 record could end up an 8-8 if Maryland isn't careful. While that is unlikely to happen, it just goes to show that the conference standings are far from being final.
The Seminoles head into Littlejohn Stadium tonight to face an under performing Clemson. Clemson currently sits one game behind the Noles in the standings, meaning that stealing a game on the road tonight could pay huge dividends at the end of the year. Take a look inside for the rest of the preview and a conversation with Will B. from Shaking the Southland, SBnation's Clemson blog.
Game Time: 7pm EST
Opponent's Site: Shakin The Southland
SBNation Coverage: Seminoles vs Tigers coverage
Live Stats: scacchoops.com
At the time of writing this (Wednesday), here is how the conference stacks up according to Ken Pomeroy:
Includes games through Monday, February 8
|Duke||19-4||7-2||13-3||.9794||2||123.9||1||88.6||22||68.2||156||Wed, at 63 North Carolina||(W, 84-74, 82%)|
|Maryland||16-6||6-2||11-5||.9558||8||115.8||15||88.6||23||71.1||37||Wed, vs 49 Virginia||(W, 73-63, 85%)|
|Wake Forest||16-5||6-3||10-6||.9114||30||105.9||99||86.5||8||70.7||50||Tue, vs 70 Boston College||(W, 71-63, 80%)|
|Virginia Tech||18-4||5-3||9-7||.9045||35||105.5||111||86.8||9||67.8||176||Wed, at 72 North Carolina St.||(W, 66-65, 51%)|
|Virginia||14-7||5-3||8-8||.8776||49||111.3||43||93.8||68||63.0||321||Wed, at 8 Maryland||(L, 73-63, 15%)|
|Georgia Tech||17-6||5-4||9-7||.9247||21||108.8||67||87.5||13||71.1||39||Wed, at 58 Miami FL||(W, 71-70, 52%)|
|Florida St.||17-6||5-4||9-7||.9224||22||105.7||106||85.3||3||68.7||131||Wed, at 23 Clemson||(L, 66-62, 34%)|
|Clemson||16-7||4-5||8-8||.9223||23||106.1||95||85.6||4||70.1||75||Wed, vs 22 Florida St.||(W, 66-62, 66%)|
|Boston College||12-11||3-6||6-10||.8307||70||110.2||52||96.0||95||65.6||262||Tue, at 30 Wake Forest||(L, 71-63, 20%)|
|North Carolina||13-10||2-6||5-11||.8490||63||109.4||62||94.2||76||73.8||12||Wed, vs 2 Duke||(L, 84-74, 18%)|
|Miami FL||16-7||2-7||5-11||.8551||58||110.3||51||94.5||78||67.4||198||Wed, vs 21 Georgia Tech||(L, 71-70, 48%)|
|North Carolina St.||14-10||2-7||5-11||.8248||72||110.0||57||96.1||98||66.3||239||Wed, vs 35 Virginia Tech||(L, 66-65, 49%)|
Including tonight's game, the Seminoles have seven games left between now and March 6th. Those games include two key games against Clemson and one game against Boston College, Virginia, North Carolina, Wake Forest and Miami. Four of the seven games are on the road, including three of the next four. The Seminoles do get a week off between their match up with Virginia and North Carolina. The marathon of ACC conference play may just be over half way done, but it sure seems like the sprint to finish has already started.
Coming in to tonight's match up, the Clemson Tigers have a 16-7 record with a 4-5 conference record. Before conference play started, Tomahawk Nation predicted Clemson to finish fifth in the conference. At the time, they were ranked in the top 25 in the major national polls. After starting conference play 3-1, taking down North Carolina, the Tigers have gone 1-4 in their last five games. Currently, the Tigers rank 23rd in the Pomeroy standings, one spot behind the Seminoles.
Before getting into the details of tonight's game, let's hear the thoughts of Will B from Shakin The Southland, SBNation's outstanding Clemson blog. Tomahawk Nation's questions are in bold and Will's answers follow. Please check out Shakin The Southland to see our responses to their questions:
1. Going into conference play, Clemson was considered one of the better teams in the ACC. Now, the Tigers are sitting at 4-5 in conference play, what happened? Is their record reflective of the quality of this team?
Clemson came into this season returning Trevor Booker but losing KC Rivers and Terrence Oglesby. Clemson also brought in a few freshmen that we all hoped would play a big impact early on but have not been game-changers so far. I think that Clemson’s record is about adequate for the level of play they have shown this season. Clemson has been unable to effectively shoot the basketball from the field nor from the foul line. Clemson has been sloppy with the basketball and unable to play offense in half court situations, making it a pretty athletic squad that lacks fundamentals and a real desire to be elite.
2. Trevor Booker is considered one of the better players in the ACC. Has he lived up to your expectations? What elements of his game does he need to work on?
Trevor Booker’s numbers look OK. However, we have not been impressed with Booker in his senior campaign. Booker often does not play hard on defense. Offensively, he hasn’t been the threat that we all hoped, especially when being double teamed. TB has a tendency of dribbling the ball unnecessarily in the paint when he should simply go up strong. When he does make a good play, he whoops and celebrates extensively instead of hustling up and down the court. Don’t get me wrong, Booker could be a really great one and is a good basketball player, but he still has some simple things to get better with most of them deriving from playing harder on the defensive end and running up and down the court all the time.
3. The Booker brothers are the biggest players on the Clemson Tigers. How will Clemson handle the size of Florida State's front court?
Clemson has done an adequate job the past few games on the glass. As far as the Booker brothers go, Trevor Booker is 6’ 7" and Devin Booker is 6’ 8". The Tigers will, however, be undersized against the ‘Noles Wednesday night. With Chris Singleton (6’ 9") and Solomon Alabi (7’ 1") going up against the guys you mentioned, Clemson will need to use proper technique to overcome such size disadvantage. I am admittedly concerned about this size disadvantage. I fear that FSU will get it going on the offensive glass and really make it happen with put backs. Clemson will need Trevor to get more aggressive and physical in the paint in order to limit the ‘Noles superior size advantage.
4. Florida State gets into trouble when teams shoot well from outside. Who do the Seminoles need to worry about from the outside? Who is the Tigers' go to guy? Why do you think the Tigers struggle in the half court set?
Clemson really doesn’t have anyone who can consistently shoot from the outside. I guess a healthy Demontez Stitt or Andre Young may be able to knock a few down, but the Tigers really have not had much success from downtown all year. The Tigers struggle in half court sets for a variety of reasons. The first reason is that Clemson does not have a consistent threat from the outside. On top of that, Clemson has had a tough time taking defenders off of the dribble, especially since Stitt’s injury at NC State a few weeks ago. Clemson has had a tendency to get sloppy with the ball, doesn’t move well without the ball, and has shown poor fundamental basketball at times this year. All of these combinations allows most teams to worry less about Clemson’s perimeter game and gives the opponent the opportunity to double team Trevor Booker down low. For reasons listed above, Clemson’s offense basically (in a half court set) runs through Booker and is completely derailed when Clemson cannot feed him the ball consistently.
5. Clemson saw the departure of a number of players last year. Was this supposed to be Clemson's year? What is your assessment of the young talent on this team?
We admittedly thought Clemson would be better than the record indicates as shown here. We thought that Clemson would legitimately have a shot to challenge for the ACC crown, particularly with UNC losing so many players from last year’s national championship team. I think that we all underestimated the departures of Oglesby and Rivers. We thought that we could find someone who could shoot the ball (possibly an incoming freshman, Stitt, or Young) to take the pressure off of Trevor Booker. That obviously has not happened and Clemson has struggled because of this. From a young talent perspective, we were hoping that Noel Johnson would be able to come in and knock down big shots from the outside and Milton Jennings become more of a threat from the forward position. To be honest, I really thought these guys would contribute more than they currently have. Devin Booker has probably played the biggest role out of all the youngsters. With so much potential, I am not ready to give up on any of these guys and hope that they have gained a lot of experience and will be poised for some big contributions over the final portion of the season.
6. The ACC has been a wild ride this year. What is your take on the conference this year? How many teams will make it to the big dance?
This conference has been pretty crazy this season. Duke is really the frontrunner but has also looked beatable at times during the year. Most of the teams have been up and down. Georgia Tech and Virginia are both good examples here. Thus, there are still a lot of teams who are still in the mix and can make it happen with a nice run down the stretch. I also think that you will see an ACC tournament that means a lot in terms of tournament bubble position for a large portion of this year’s group of participants. Honestly, I really think that only Miami, NC State, and BC are the only schools completely out of a chance at a tourney birth. All in all, I think that seven (7) ACC teams will make the field this year.
Thanks again to Will B and Shakin The Southland for taking the time to discuss.
By the Numbers:
Currently, the Tigers rank 23rd in the Pomeroy rankings and have the 95th best Offensive Efficiency and the 4th best Defensive Efficiency. Sound familiar? Florida State currently ranks 22nd and has the 106th and 3rd best offense and defense respectively. And, Clemson also happens to be one of the younger teams in the nation with an average experience of 1.54 years. Unlike the Noles, the Tigers are not the tallest team in the conference. In fact, their average height is 76.8", which ranks 135th in the nation. The Noles' average height is 79.4", with an effective height of +6.3 inches.
Clearly, the Tigers excel on defense and that is a result of the constant pressure they apply on their opponents. Full court press. Trapping on the wings. Physical basketball. They like to force you into mistakes and generate points of turnovers. The Tigers force their opponents into turning the ball over on 25% of their possessions and generate steals on 14.3% of possessions. They also defend extremely well on the perimeter, holding opponents to only 28.4% from beyond the arc. This does not bode well for the Seminoles as they are a turnover happy team that is not shooting well from beyond the arc.
But, the Tigers are prone to getting beat down low, particularly as they are lacking any significant size in the paint. Clemson's opponents are scoring 57.4% of their points inside the arc, which is high and they don't rebound on the defensive glass as well as expected. The Tigers also get into trouble at the foul line: they don't get there often and don't shoot well when they do. This likely represents their style of game and lack of true shooters. Granted, you don't have to a be a 'shooter' per se to do well from the free throw line, ask Solomon Alabi. The Tigers also like to turn the ball over.
In their losses, there is a clear drop in the Tigers' offensive efficiency and it is clearly linked to three factors: pace, eFG% and free throw rate. Forcing the Tigers into the half court set takes them out of their comfort zone and exposes their lack of perimeter shooting/scorer. In their loss to Duke, the Clemson played at their slowest pace of the year and had an eFG% of only 39.6%. If you look at their highest efficiency games, the pace is significantly higher. If you look at simple correlation factors,Clemson's eFG%, their opponent's eFG% and pace are the most strongly correlated with Clemson's success.
Edge goes to FSU in three out of the four. But, let's not forget it's a road game in the ACC, meaning the FT Rate means nothing.
F #15 David Potter 6'6 215lbs Senior 6.7 ppg, 2.6 rpg
F #35 Trevor Booker 6'7 240lbs Senior 15.4 pp, 8.4 rpg
F #45 Jerai Grant 6'8 220lbs Junior 6.9 ppg, 4.7 rpg
G #5 Tanner Smith 6'5 220lbs Sophomore 10.0 ppg, 2.3 apg
G #11 Andre Young 5'9 170lbs Sophomore 8.2 ppg, 2.3 apg
F #31 Chris Singleton 6'9 227lbs Sophomor 10.8 ppg, 7.5 rpg
F #42 Ryan Reid 6'8 237lbs Senior 7.0 ppg, 3.9 rpg
C #32 Solomon Alabi 7'1 251lbs Sophomore 12.7 ppg, 2.4 bpg
G #21 Michael Snaer 6'5 200lbs Freshman 8.5 ppg, 2.7 rpg
G #22 Derwin Kitchen 6'4 198lbs Junior 8.7 ppg, 4.1 apg
Clearly, the Seminoles have the significant size advantage. The first players to come off the Tigers' bench are Demonte Stitt who is 6'2 and Devon Booker (Trevor's younger brother) who is 6'8. However, Clemson's bench doesn't see much playing time, only accounting for 34.1% of the team's total minutes. With Deividas Dulkys having his recent shooting slump, he and Loucks along with Gibson are now the first ones off the bench for the Seminoles. It's a nice combination have Loucks an Dulkys come off the bench together. If Clemson goes small, Snaer can stay in the game to go with a three guard lineup.
Trevor Booker is Clemson's work horse. He has an Ortg of 110.2 and has an eFG% of 52.9%. He is also doing well on the boards with a 9.6 and 21.1 Oreb/Dreb%. He also gets to the line...a lot. He draws 5.1 fouls per 40 minutes of game play, but only shoots 52% from the line. He is a very physical athletic player and it would benefit the Seminoles to get him working down low on long possessions rather than simply working in transition. Last year, Solomon Alabi went for 17 points an nine rebounds in the first match up with Clemson. In the second game, Alabi got into foul trouble early and played limited minutes and had little impact on the game statistically.
Keys to the Game:
1. Slow down. One of the trademarks of a Leonard Hamilton team is playing down tempo, long possession basketball derived from pressure man to man defense. Florida State wants to make you earn your baskets. Clemson does not like to play in the half court set on either end of the court. Wear them down. Eat up their minutes and get into their bench.
2. Protect the ball. No turnovers for highlight tape plays on the road. Weather the storm that will be the crowd in Littlejohn stadium. The student section is affectionately referred to as OPP: Oliver Purnell's Posse. Keep them quiet early and don't give them any reason to cheer.
3. Work the paint. Get Alabi a lot of touches and let Snaer drive the ball and let Singleton clean up around the basket. The size advantage is significant.
4. Get Dulkys good looks early. Don't put him in a position to fail. Things may get worse before they get better. If it's not there in warm ups, then leave good enough alone. Florida State has enough guards to get away with limiting his minutes.
5. Get a road victory in the ACC.
Prediction: Florida State 66 Clemson 61
Game Time: 7pm EST
Opponent's Site: Shakin The Southland
SBNation Coverage: Seminoles vs Tigers coverage
Live Stats: scacchoops.com
Fun Fact From Seminoles.com:
SEMINOLES ON THE ROAD IN THE ACC
Florida State is tied as the second winningest team in ACC road games in the last two seasons and enters Wednesday's game against Clemson looking to win their seventh ACC road game in the last two seasons. North Carolina, with seven ACC road wins in the last two seasons, is the winningest ACC team on the road since the start of the 2008-09 season. The Seminoles are currently tied with Duke and Wake Forest for the second highest total of conference road wins in the last two seasons.