Clemson (4-19, 0-10 ACC) is the worst team in the ACC. They are the only team in the conference with fewer than 10 wins and are the only team winless in conference play. The Tigers are a poor defensive team. They struggle with dribble penetration and they are slow on rotations so they tend to give up open shots. They are also a below average rebounding team getting outrebounded by an average of 5.7 rebounds a game.
Offensively the Tigers are a terrible shooting team hitting only 25.2% of their shots from three point range. At least they know it as only one player (Victoria Cardaci) has taken more then 75 threes on the season. Clemson has two ways to score. They can get dribble penetration from their guards (Nelly Perry, Danielle Edwards or Alexis Carter) or they can turn live ball turnovers into transition opportunities. That's basically it. In addition to that list of horribles the Tigers turn the ball over too much (18.7 per game).
But you wouldn't have known all of that by watching the first half. The coaching staffs of both teams coached the game barefoot to promote the charity Samaritan's Feet in order to bring attention to the problem of children who are forced to go without shoes. However, it was Florida State (19-4, 9-1 ACC) who started this game flat footed. The Noles haven't played for seven days and it showed as they came out rusty and only led by seven at halftime against a team they beat by 45 in their last meeting.
As we discussed the Tigers are very limited offensively, so what did the Noles do? They allowed dribble penetration and they committed turnovers (12 in the first half). They also played uninspired defense which allowed the Tigers to shoot 42% in the first half - they normally average 36% shooting. If the Seminoles didn't have a 9-2 run to end the half they would have been in worse shape.
Unfortunately for Clemson they played the second half. Early in the third quarter the Noles woke up and went on a 19-0 run in which five Seminoles scored to put FSU up 56-30 and effectively end the game as Clemson would never again be closer than 15 points to the lead.
Shakayla Thomas led the Noles with 17 points but Emiah Bingley was hot the whole game from outside (5-6 3PT) and ended with 15 points. The Noles won the rebounding battle (35-23) and were 12-12 from the free throw line. FSU did have 23 turnovers however.
The bottom line is that the Noles came out sluggish, rusty and at times were sloppy. They won this game simply because of superior talent. However, this game could be good for FSU as the coaches will surely use this tape to fire up the team and make the point that every opponent must be respected. That shouldn't be a problem in the next game.
Florida State will travel to Cameron Indoor Stadium to take on the Duke Blue Devils on Thursday February 11 at 7pm (ESPN 3).
Duke (17-8, 6-5 ACC) has been an interesting team to follow this year. Last year was a slight disappointment even though they got to the Sweet 16 as they lost 11 games. They lost two starters to graduation including superstar forward Elizabeth Williams (4th overall pick in the WNBA Draft). The departure of Williams left a sizable hole in the post and Duke needed someone to fill it. Enter 6'6 sophomore Azurá Stevens. Stevens (19.1pts, 9.4reb) has emerged as Duke's best player and is one of the leaders for ACC Player of the Year. Unfortunately for the Blue Devils, Stevens sustained a torn plantar fascia in her left foot on Feb 1 in a 68-61 loss to Notre Dame. She missed the game against Virginia (67-52 Duke win) and today's game in Miami (61-53 Duke loss). She watched the Miami game from the bench in warmups and her foot was in a boot. The Blue Devils hope that she can play on Thursday against FSU but even if that optimistic prognosis comes true she is unlikely to be 100%.
If Stevens is unable to play or is limited the Blue Devils will have to find production elsewhere. Fortunately for them they have many other talented players. In Stevens' absence expect to see guard Rebecca Greenwell (15pts, 5.8reb) step up. The 6'1 Greenwell is a tough versatile player who can beat you from the outside or go inside and use her size against smaller guards in the post. Duke is also blessed with either the best or second best (depending on how much you like Louisville's class) recruiting class in the nation for 2015. The class featured four 5* and one 4* including two top 10 players. The class is obviously loaded with talent but it hasn't quite lived up to the billing in the early going.
Duke will play mostly zone against FSU but coach Joanne P. McCallie loves to switch defenses so the Noles will also see plenty of man to man. Duke is a good rebounding team but a lot of the credit goes to Stevens. Without her the Blue Devils killed UVA on the boards but lost the rebounding battle to Miami. That's a small sample size but it's safe to say that Duke will struggle to keep FSU off the boards.
Whether or not Stevens plays, above anything Duke must avoid long scoreless droughts. Against Miami today the Blue Devils went a full 11 minutes and 37 seconds of game time without scoring a point. This led to them having only 11 points in the first half which is the lowest scoring half for a Duke team in their history. This featured a 2 point second quarter which is obviously the lowest scoring quarter in their history. Granted the women only started playing quarters this year but I have a feeling that record will stand a while. It's really remarkable that they only lost to Miami 61-53. That shows that Duke will fight to the end. FSU must be ready to battle for 40 minutes.
The bottom line is that if FSU plays their game they likely get a double digit win. If they don't Duke could steal a victory. Sagarin has FSU as 4.5 point favorites but that line is not adjusted for the Stevens injury. If Stevens doesn't play you can safely adjust the line at least four points in FSU's favor.