Clemson (12-12, 4-9 ACC) vs. Notre Dame (17-7, 10-3 ACC)
When: 7 p.m. EST
Or: Clemson, SC (home of an excellent softball team)
What channel?: ACCN
“How could things get worse? Take a look here, Ellen. We are on the threshold of hell!
Famed American philosopher Clark W Griswold made this observation in the groundbreaking cinematic treason about the dangers of hosting a family Christmas, and I think it’s about the current state of Clemson basketball. Clemson teeters on the threshold of basketball hell, and any slight breeze could tip them into the abyss.
The Tigers are on a three-game losing streak and have won 3 of their last 10 games. Hunter Tyson’s collarbone exploded a few games ago and David Collins is suspended after a brain short against Duke. A team with no room for error on its best day faces even more adversity today when it takes on Notre Dame, who are tied for first place in the ACC, and have everything to play for. I’m not going to lie, it looks pretty dark.
Before continuing with this Clemson basketball dirge, I would like to point out a few positives. PJ Hall is that guy, Chase Hunter became a legit player, Ian Schieffelin looked solid with extended minutes against Duke, and Naz Bohannon continues to justify my fan club membership. It is possible to hate the results while acknowledging individual accomplishments. These guys care about it and put it on the line every game.
Now then… back to the lament.
It’s a weird team from Notre Dame. If you look at their advanced stats, they don’t seem that impressive. In conference play, they feasted on a dismal ACC. They are 8-2 in their last 10 games, losing to both teams they have faced ranked in KenPom’s top 50. All of their wins in this streak have come against teams outside KenPom’s top 60. At the same time, whatever, win. Clemson also played against some bad ACC teams, but didn’t have as much success (I guess that makes them one of the bad teams in the ACC).
There’s nothing that stands out with this Notre Dame team. They are correct with their offensive efficiency (77th) and defensive (64th), and they do not return the ball (28th). They play at a snail’s pace (290th tempo) and make the teams appreciate every possession.
Dane Goodwin leads them in scoring, averaging 14.5 points per game, including 46% shooting from deep. He lit up the Tigers for 21 in their opener, and Clemson is even less equipped to cover the guard 6-6 with Collins out. 6’5” freshman guard Blake Wesley is second only to Goodwin in scoring, averaging 14 points per game. He torched Clemson for 20 when they last met. A team with 2 athletic wings is the worst case scenario for the Tigers. Collins is the only player who can keep a big wing at bay, and he sits this one down to reflect on what he’s done. Not great Bob.
The third cog in their three-pronged scoring machine is senior forward Paul Atkinson. The 6’9” burley, 230 post player is averaging 12.5 points per game and leads Notre Dame in rebounding with 7.1 per game. He’ll look after PJ the whole game and try to force him to extend his reach outside of the paint. I’m interested to see how the young Clemson stud handles a guy who can get him out of the position.
Apart from the players mentioned above, it is the rating by committee. They have 3 players who average between 5 and 10 points per game. This Notre Dame team wins with balance. They’re not good at any place, but their top 7 players are all solid. Speaking of which, at least Notre Dame only regularly plays 7 guys. Clemson is understaffed, but Notre Dame is in the same boat and likes to play at an icy pace. They shouldn’t be able to drive the Tigers out of the field. What they can do is warm up and shoot Clemson off the field. That’s what they did in their 72-56 dismantling of the Tigers earlier in the season. They hit 10 3s, shot 38.5%, retired in the first half and the result was never in doubt in the second half.
What to watch
Clemson will be without 2 of its top 3 rebounders with Tyson and Collins out for the game. Hall can smack the boards, but it will take more than PJ to hold down the fort. The Naz/Schieffelin Power Forward combo looks best with its bouncy shoes today. When you give up an offensive tip to Notre Dame, they’re going to take the ball away, chew even more clock and slow the game down even more. If Clemson wants to compete, they need to keep them out of the offensive glass. They gave Notre Dame just 8 offensive rebounds in Game 1, and will have to continue doing so, with a significantly smaller roster.
If Clemson can’t compete on the boards against Notre Dame, there’s no doubting this one.
Clemson wins if…
Honestly, I don’t know how Clemson wins this game. I’m guessing that would imply a 20+ PJ point performance paired with a guard getting hot and the guards not being horrible. This hasn’t happened recently. Clemson’s guard game, a supposed strength heading into the season, has been putrid. Dawes is either really hot or really cold, Nick Honor has been in a horrible fit, to the point where I’m not even sure he’s playable, and Alex Hemenway wouldn’t play if there were other options available . Hemenway and Honor have regressed significantly this year in almost every facet of the game.
It probably has to be a Chase Hunter escape game for the Tigers to have a chance. He came to Clemson with a reputation as a goalscorer, and we finally see what it was all about. He could give Notre Dame problems with that ability to drive the ball to the basket.
Notre Dame wins if…
They continue to play basketball regularly. I don’t see how Clemson wins this game without the help of Notre Dame, and that’s not what the Irish are doing this year. They may not be good at one thing, but they’re good together and they don’t fight. It goes a long way in the 2022 vintage of ACC basketball.
Clemson 70 – Notre Dame 67 (41%)
Clemson 57 – Notre Dame 65