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FSU basketball: Clemson preview

FSU is 0-4 on the road this season.

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

FSU is reeling, but if you're able to look beyond that, a promising identity is beginning to emerge. It won't result in a miraculous run to cap off this season, but it's vital for the future. Next year a talent infusion arrives, so this year's struggles are forcing the current roster to put up or shut up.

Xavier Rathan-Mayes is still struggling with his 3-point shot, but he's only turned the ball over three times in the past three games (in 105 minutes).  Prior to that, he'd been commenting about how he needed to be more careful with the ball.

Phil Cofer had a career game versus Pittsburgh, and he's averaged 29.5 minutes in the past two games as his understanding of the defense has improved a notch.

Jarquez Smith lost minutes at the 4 to Cofer, but he didn't mope. Instead, he anchored the middle when FSU went small for much of the second half versus NC State.

The Noles still have a long way to go, but this season has most likely entered moral victory mode, and player development is the key.

Tonight, Florida State faces a quick turnaround at Clemson (10-7, 2-3), who just knocked off Syracuse. Brad Brownell, in the first year of his shiny new 6-year extension, is coaching a struggling defense after the departure of All-ACC defensive player of the year, KJ McDaniels. Defense is Brownell's calling card, as his offenses haven't cracked the top 100 in five years. Clemson's defense is ranked 85th, primarily because they don't force turnovers.

Offensively, Clemson - like FSU - shoots less than 30% from deep, and is a below average free throw shooting team. They also play very slowly, with only Virginia running a lower tempo in the ACC.

The only player averaging double figures is Jaron Blossomgame, a redshirt sophomore who has battled leg injuries for his career. After averaging 4.9 points last year, the 6-7 wing is scoring 13.8 and adding 8.5 rebounds.  The down part of his game is that he only shoots 28% from the arc.

Steady senior Rod Hall will make his 93rd career start. He's never been much of a scoring threat, but is making 43% of his 3s this year. The primary 3-point threat is senior Demarcus Harrison, who has made 38% of his 90 attempts. Highly regarded 6-8 freshman Donte Grantham has shown flashes of brilliance but like a lot of young stretch guys is attempting way too many 3s and only making 28%. Holding down the middle is 6-10 Landry Nnoko, who can block shots and get put backs.

For FSU to pull the upset, they need to be efficient with the ball. Clemson doesn't pressure teams into many turnovers, so the Noles can't self-inflict. This will likely feature no more than 60 possessions, so protecting the ball is essential.

The game tips at 9pm and will be broadcast on ESPNU. Clemson opened as a 6.5 point favorite.