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Previewing the Clemson Tigers

It’s been a week since FSU’s last game, but now the Noles (15-5, 5-1) travel to the always intimidating Littlejohn Coliseum to take on the Clemson Tigers (14-6, 3-3) in a game that would lead to FSU’s best ever ACC start should they win. This is the 2nd matchup between these two teams, with FSU winning in Tallahassee in December 75-69 behind Deividas Dulkys’ 17 points. Since then, Brad Brownell’s squad has gone 9-2, with their only losses being on the road against UNC and Maryland.

In ACC games, Clemson has tied BC for the best offense in the conference at 1.11 points per possession. Their defense has been in the middle of the pack (1.05, 7th in conference). With those kinds of splits they’re projecting as a 9-7 team, with 10 wins being more likely than 8. That obviously makes this game huge for them, especially seeing that they only get Wake and Virginia one time each. This would be a great game for the Noles to win, but it’s much bigger for Clemson. Clemson should at least be slight favorites in each of their next 8 games (including this one) before finishing at Duke and vs. Virginia Tech. Meanwhile, if the Noles win, they'll be tied with Duke for 1st place at 6-1 with a horrible Wake Forest team coming to town on Tuesday. A win over Clemson would produce the 1st ever 6-1 ACC start for the Seminoles, and bracketologists would begin to count FSU as a lock.

Clemson is the poster child for a balanced team. They’re 50th nationally in offensive efficiency, and 43rd in defense. Offensively their points are distributed normally across 3-point, 2-point and free throws. And there’s no one thing amongst the four factors that they do really well. Defensively they’re the same team – everything is good, but not great, and nothing really jumps out. This is in contrast to Oliver Purnell teams which branded themselves by playing pressure defense and forcing turnovers. The new Clemson team runs a motion offense and mixes zone and man on defense. Boring? Yes. Effective? So far.

Brownell continues a streak of ACC head coaching hires that bring a slow, deliberate approach on the offensive end. FSU was able to dictate the pace in the 1st game, and at 69 possessions it was the 2nd fastest game of Clemson’s season. Still, the Tiger players have responded well. Senior PG Demontez Stitt leads the team at 13.9 ppg and hits roughly 40% of his 3’s. Senior C Jerai Grant (son of Oklahoma Sooner great Harvey Grant) adds 12.5 ppg and 7.2 rpg, and does tremendous work inside grabbing offensive rebounds and drawing fouls. In fact, his FT Rate is highest in the conference. Aside from those two, the most likely to hit double figures is 5’9" Andre Young, who’s 5th in the ACC in 3-pointers attempted, and knocks them down at a 39.5% clip. Stitt and Young present a pair of guards who are both quicker than FSU guards, and the Noles ability to contain them will dictate this game.

It’s worth noting that junior SG Tanner Smith has missed the last two games with a knee injury, but is expected back today. Pomeroy has Clemson as a 3 point favorite, while Vegas has it at 2.5. The game tips at noon on Raycom and ESPN Full Court.