For those of you 13 games in, you know the drill. For those of you just coming over to basketball because football is over, we won't judge you for being bandwagon fans. We're inclusive. It's cool.
So welcome to basketball season.
What you've missed has been the Noles (10-2) dropping a game to Hofstra which they should have won (though I predicted an FSU loss). You've missed the Noles being one shot away from upsetting an Iowa team which just stomped the No. 1 team in the nation. You missed the Noles beating VCU and a bunch of other teams when FSU was favored. And you missed Florida State traveling to Gainesville and knocking off a team with three 5*s and seven other top 100 recruits.
Now, it's time for the ACC.
First up is Clemson, a team with a bizarre early-season experience. They're 7-6 and haven't beaten anyone, but they're actually a pretty decent team. The Noles will probably be just a 1 - 2 point favorite.
Clemson has an All-ACC caliber player in 6-7 junior Jaron Blossomgame. Blossomgame leads the Tigers in scoring (15.4 ppg), rebounding (6.8), and pretty much every advanced metric that matters. He can score from all three levels, and he's one of those guys who can put up numbers even when well-defended.
The problem (for Clemson) is that they've lost several games even when Blossomgame has scored 15+ and been efficient. The reason is that - once again - their offense is terrible. For the 5th straight year of Brad Brownell's six-year tenure, the Tigers offense is ranked well above 100 (136th) nationally. They don't get to the line, and in every other metric they're pretty much average.
Their other primary options are 6-8 wing Donte Grantham (10.1 ppg, 36% 3-pt), 6-2 junior transfer Avry Holmes (9.8 ppg, 43% 3-pt), 6-1 senior Jordan Roper (8.5 ppg), and 6-10 senior Landry Nnoko (8.2 ppg).
But they limit their ineffectiveness by taking the air out of the ball. They'll take 7-9 seconds to get the ball across the timeline, even with zero pressure on the ball handler. Then they'll often dribble aimlessly for another 8-10 seconds before getting into their offense.
Brad Brownell recognizes that his team is almost always at a talent disadvantage in the loaded ACC, and so he wants to limit possessions as much as possible to keep that talent disparity from rearing its head. They have just four 4*/5* recruits on the roster (FSU has 6).
To supplement that tempo, his teams play defense. They don't put you on the line (14th nationally in FT Rate), they contend shots (17th in block %), and they force teams to work for a decent look (only 13 of 351 teams force their opponent to use more clock).
It's not a pretty system. But it can be effective.
Florida State - at least on offense - is the exact opposite. They want the majority of their offensive possessions to last less than 10 seconds. FSU needs to get stops or live ball turnovers, and turn these into points. No one wants a half-court game more than Clemson.
Defensively, FSU is set up to give Clemson fits. The huge weakness in the Noles' defense has been in transition. In half court sets, FSU has been pretty good.
To date, Clemson hasn't played a single game with more than 70 possessions. FSU, for their part, has only played two with fewer than 73. And that will be the key thing to watch in this game. The Noles average 76 possessions a game, while Clemson averages 65. It's like music where tempo is king. FSU wants a barn stomper, while Clemson wants a ballad. If either team can keep the game in their wheelhouse, then they'll probably win. If it is played somewhere between 66 and 75, then it will probably be close.
The game tips on Saturday at Noon and will be broadcast regionally on Fox Sports, and nationally on ESPN Full Court and ESPN3. It will be played at the Bon Secours Wellness Arena, which is where the Tigers are playing this year as Littlejohn Coliseum undergoes a $64 million renovation.