Brad Brownell looks for a big win against Arizona.
This weekend Clemson basketball faces a tough test when the 8th ranked Arizona Wildcats come to Littlejohn to complete the two year home-and-home series. Brad Brownell & Arizona coach Sean Miller have coached in proximity to one another as Miller was an assistant at NC State when Brownell was at UNC-Wilmington (1996-2001) and their resulting friendship helped to put these games together.
The two coaches also spent time in Ohio together with Miller at Xavier and Brownell at Wright State from 2006-2009. One major knock against Oliver Purnell during his time at Clemson was weak non-conference scheduling, but it appears that Brownell prefers to schedule 1-2 big games outside of the Big10/ACC challenge and South Carolina rivalry. I completely agree and support Brownell scheduling big opponents as there is absolutely nothing to lose.
Benefits from playing a team like Arizona are not limited to on the court as they also help to generate fan support during that dead lull after the completion of football season. Hopefully Littlejohn will be rocking Saturday night for the 2nd highest ranked nonconference opponent to ever enter the arena, but what type of outcome can the fans expect Saturday night?
Three Keys for a Clemson Win
1. Keep Devin Booker out of Foul Trouble
Arizona lacks experience in the post position (Sophomore Angelo Chol is considered the veteran presence) and this would be a big opportunity for Booker to step up and take advantage. Problem is Booker won’t be scoring much if he has to spend most of the game on the bench, so look for Miller to attack him early in an attempt to put the big man in foul trouble. If Miller’s successful Clemson would turn to the trio of Bernard Sullivan/Landry Nnoko/Josh Smith to fill in, essentially giving Arizona a push when it comes to post player experience.
2. Somebody has to Score
Brownell’s teams are known to play tough defense, but the Tigers still lack a legitimate scoring threat that can explode for 20-30 points on any given night. Can Milton Jennings, coming off a two-game suspension, step up to the call tomorrow night?
3. Slow Pace = Turnovers
The Wildcats are a team that likes to run up and down the court, but they have also been susceptible to a lot of turnovers early this season (w/ 27 this week vs. Southern Miss). If Clemson can slow the tempo down and force Arizona to start getting impatient, Clemson has a chance to keep this trend going and score a lot of points in transition. I would be surprised if Brownell uses any full court press (as seen in the 2nd half vs. Purdue) as this would only encourage Arizona’s style of play. I would even encourage the occasional use of a 2-3 or 1-3-1 zone as the Wildcats have a tendency to be content jacking up 3’s against this style of defense (sound familiar?).
Last season at Arizona the Tigers suffered a big scoring drought in the first half and lacked the shooting ability to come from behind. I believe this year’s Clemson team is better, but still worry about those 10-minute segments we have seen with Brownell’s teams where they will go without a basket. Nobody on this team has yet to show me they can consistently score a bunch of points, and that player is the key piece the team is missing before it can expect to compete with the Top 25 teams. Look for Clemson to hang tough early, only to suffer from a lack of scoring at the start of the 2nd half.