To preview this afternoon's basketball game between BC and Clemson, we sat down with the Clemson blog Shakin The Southland to get the low down on this year's Tigers squad. Our questions and their answers follow.
BC Interruption: Really good win for Clemson on Wednesday night at NC State. The Tigers were up 23 in the first half. Talk a bit about that performance and how that might spark the team heading into the second half of conference play
Shakin The Southland: Clemson came out of the gate playing the best basketball they have all season. The defense was not only locking them down, but creating turnovers—something Clemson is less adept at. Those turnovers turned into points. Clemson also hit six three-pointers on .500 shooting, far above their still sub .300 mark. Another thing they did well, especially early, was play inside out, dumping it into the post and either getting short range buckets or forcing the defense to collapse. When Clemson makes threes at a decent rate they're a very good team. When they also force turnovers and focus on playing inside out basketball, they're excellent. Unfortunately, they've been inconsistent at all those things this season.
Clemson has a handful of very solid wins on their resume, but they've followed up each one fairly closely with a dud. They beat LSU, but two games later lost to Rutgers at home. They then beat Arkansas, but followed that up two games later with a blowout loss at South Carolina. They beat Syracuse, but then turned around and lost to Florida State in Littlejohn.
It would be overly optimistic at this point to think one more good win will suddenly make the difference in Clemson finding consistency. Rather, I'll just enjoy the unpredictable wins whenever they come.
BCI: Clemson ranks in the top 30 in the country in field goal percentage defense. What are the keys to what make that defense so effective?
STS: Traditionally, Clemson has run a suffocating man-to-man defense. This year, Brownell has had to be a little more creative and mix in some 2-3 zone looks. While many may question Coach Brownell's direction offensively, nobody should question his expertise with the defense. He's done a great job mixing in multiple looks and confusing opponents. I commend him greatly for not being a rigid ideologue and making adjustments for the betterment of the team.
Clemson defends the paint well despite not having especially great size. They block 12.4% of their opponents' two-point shots. That may be part of the reason that opposing offenses are settling for three-pointers more often and making them less often against Clemson compared to the national average.
When you watch Clemson guard against the screen you'll see the screener's defender comes up to help. The screened defender will tell his help which way he is forcing the ball, and the help stops penetration. They'll then switch back. It's been my observation that they're more susceptible to back door cuts than the pick-and-roll.
Basketball vs. Clemson: Final Thoughts, Prediction
The Eagles welcome ACC newcomers Louisville to the Heights on Wednesday, then hit the road to take on the Clemson Tigers in South Carolina on Saturday.
BCI: Rod Hall is such a physically strong on ball defender. I am assuming he will cover Olivier Hanlan. How do you see that matchup playing out on Saturday?
STS: Hall completely bottled up Trevor Cooney from Syracuse, but then Florida State's Xavier Rathan-Mayes had a big night against him. If there's one thing Hall is it is persistent. Hall, like you said, is physically tough and will fight through screens and make Hanlan earn every point he scores. That said, when Hanlan is playing to his ability, I wouldn't bet against him regardless of the defender.
Hanlan would have a height advantage over Hall too, so if that causes Hall any trouble, it's possible Demarcus Harrison will spend some time trying to slow him down.
BCI: Jaron Blossomgame has really upped his play this season, going from a guy averaging five points a night to CU's leading scorer and rebounder. What should Eagle fans be looking for when they watch him play tomorrow?
STS: I've been tooting Blossomgame's horn for a while now and have been thrilled to see him take off this season. We posted an in-depth article about his improvement not too long ago which you can check out here.
More briefly though, he's vastly improved as a dribbler and can attack the basket. This has lead to some explosive dunks and easy buckets. He's scrappy, not the kind of player you run offense through. Expect him to grab some offensive rebounds and find points that way. If you can force him to take long jump shots you've defended him well.
BCI: Year five now for Brad Brownell. I had to think about that a moment, still doesn't seem that long since Oliver Purnell was there. Are things on track for him or is this looked at as a season where CU needs to get to the tournament based on his tenure and the run to the NIT semis last year and maybe just as importantly, has he generated energy to get the Clemson community excited about hoops?
STS: Following Clemson's run to the NIT Final Four last year, Coach Brownell was awarded a contract extension that includes a $5 million buy-out for this season and 2015-16. Therefore, he cannot realistically be dismissed until the conclusion of the 2016-17 season. That's a year when Clemson should have a veteran squad, and they'll be playing in the newly remodeled Littlejohn Coliseum.
There's only a moderate amount of excitement about basketball this season and next year we will be playing home games in Greenville, SC while our arena is being rebuilt. It's the next season (2016-17) that is the money year from Brownell. I've gone on record saying he really needs to make the NCAA tournament by 2016-17 when his buy-out drops from the exorbitant $5 million figure. I believe there will be a lot of excitement that season, and he will accomplish that goal, but if not patience will run out.
BCI: While Clemson is really good defensively and BC has had its moments, both have struggled at times offensively. How do you see both teams generating offense tomorrow based on the others strengths and weaknesses?
STS: As I mentioned, Clemson is very good when they are hitting three-pointers. They also found a lot of success against NC State by playing inside out basketball. Sidy Djitte and Josh Smith are starting provide a little depth at center giving Clemson more consistency overall at the position.
It looks like Boston College has good size at center, so we'll see if Clemson is still able to do that.
BCI: So let's talk bottom line. Who wins, what's the score and why?
STS: KenPom gives Clemson a 69% chance in this one with a predicted final score of 62-58, but I honestly feel it's a complete toss up. We've not been able to maintain our level of play from game to game and I am not yet comfortable with Jordan Roper, who has only started two games (the last two) this season, being a major part of the offense. Jaron has been slowing down a bit lately and I fear this could be a let down game. I think Clemson is the slightly better team and they're at home, but I question their ability to win three straight games against top 200 teams, something they haven't done all season. Officially, I'll go with KenPom on the prediction, but I'm far less confident than Mr. Pomeroy.