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FSU basketball at Clemson: Preview, how-to-watch, Vegas line

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Let’s get ready for a rock fight!

NCAA Basketball: Maryland at Clemson
Brad Brownell demonstrating a less than perfect understanding of how masks works
Ken Ruinard-USA TODAY Sports

Fans of the Bernard James Era Seminole teams may see something they like in this year’s Clemson Tigers (6-1) basketball squad. This may be the best defense the ‘Noles see all year. Clemson has the No. 2 defense nationally and is elite at turning teams over (7th in TO%) and contesting shots (13th in defensive eFG%). No one has scored a point per possession against the Tigers.

And offensively - well, they’re challenged. They do jack a ton of 3s, so if you catch them on a hot night, you might as well just tip the cap and move on. Clemson is 48th nationally in the percentage of points scored from beyond the arc. Compare that to 235th on 2s and 250th on free throws. Their primary problems are a high turnover rate and an inability to get to the line.

Their best player is senior Aamir Simms (6-8, 245), who flirted with the NBA Draft before returning for his final season. He’ll play the five in Clemson’s small-ball lineup and is a huge match up problem as he’s drained 41% of his 3s the past couple seasons. He leads the Tigers scoring 12.1 per game and grabbing 4.7 rebounds. Head Coach Leonard Hamilton has hinted at abandoning the philosophy of switching screens 1-5 when true bigs are on the floor, so don’t be surprised if FSU comes out hedging Clemson ball screens utilizing Simms. Otherwise the ‘Noles will need to go small.

Sophomore Al-Amir Dawes (6-2, 180) is the other double digit scorer, averaging 11.0 per game. He hit the game winner to beat FSU last year and doesn’t lack in confidence. Luckily, he’s a poor shooter (32% career from deep).

Fordham transfer Nick Honor (5-10, 205) has been the surprise. Last year for the Rams he made just 34% of his 3s, but he’s raised that to 42% this season, even with elevated competition. He takes more shots when he’s on the floor than any other Clemson player, so Florida State will have to find him early in possessions.

You’d think Clemson would be a terror in transition with an offense that struggles, and a defense that turns teams over at a 28.3% clip, but the reality is that only 22% of their shots come in the first ten seconds of the shot clock. FSU, for reference, is at 31.4%. The Tigers will certainly run when it’s wide open, but Brad Brownell prefers to limit a game’s possessions—they’re currently 288th in tempo, so FSU will have to force the action to make it a more comfortable game.

Clemson’s weaknesses on their otherwise stellar defense have been a tendency to give up second chance points, and the Tigers foul a lot, due to their extreme pressure. If FSU hopes to be the first team this year to score a point per possession against Clemson, the Seminoles most likely need to dominate the offensive glass. And if the ‘Noles pick up a few charges by being overly aggressive at/near the rim, so be it—keep the pressure on and get to the line. In Clemson’s lone loss (to Virginia Tech), the Hokies made almost twice as many FTs as the Tigers attempted (25-14).

Brad Brownell has used six different starting lineups in seven games, so have fun predicting that. They have a couple of serviceable bigs, but it’s unclear how much they’ll play. Jonathan Baehre (6-10, 214) is a 24-year-old senior who was a solid starter at UNC-Asheville, but hasn’t done much this season. Freshman PJ Hall (6-10, 235) highlighted their recruiting class (No. 54 overall prospect), but outside of a 10 point, seven rebound game in the opener against Mississippi State, he hasn’t played much. He’s one of five blue-chip recruits on the roster, which is two more than Florida State.

This’ll be FSU’s first road game this season.

The game tips at 7 PM and will be broadcast on ACC Network Extra, so good luck finding it (Fox Sports South, Sun Sports, and others should be carrying it). FSU opened as a 4 point underdog, but the line has been bet down to 1.5 points. The over/under is 130 points.