Who: Miami (20-3, 11-0 1st place in ACC) at Clemson (13-11, 5-7 8th in the ACC)
Can Milton Jennings be a difference maker for Clemson against Miami.
Where: Littlejohn Coliseum (capacity 10,000)
When: Tip off at 6:00 pm. Televised by ESPNU.
Tomorrow night the Tigers will host one of the hottest teams in the nation when the third-ranked Miami Hurricanes come to Littlejohn. In his second year at Miami, Jim Larranaga has led the ‘Canes to 25+ point victories at home over Duke and North Carolina and has Miami in position to land a #1 seed come NCAA tournament time. Larranaga and Brad Brownell have some history, as both coaches faced each other during their days in the Colonial Athletic Association with George Mason (whom Larranaga took to the Final 4 in 2006) and UNC-Wilmington. Despite their undefeated conference record, Miami has not been invincible on the road this season with close wins at Boston College (1 point), NC State (1) and Florida State (6). Clemson 247 takes a look at the keys to victory as the Tigers attempt to hand Miami their first ACC loss of the season…
1. Find some Offense
While the Hurricanes boast a lot of offensive weapons, it has also been their defense (ranked 6th in the Nation according to kenpom.com) that has keyed their recent surge. Miami has the size with Seniors Reggie Johnson and Kenny Kadji to give Devin Booker problems inside the paint along with speed on the outside in Senior Durand Scott and Sophomore point guard Shane Larkin.
The offensively challenged Tigers will have their work cut out for them, and to have a chance they’ll need Milton Jennings and Jordan Roper to hit some early shots to open up things for Booker. Clemson’s offense works the best when going through the Senior big man, and without hitting some open jump shots Miami will have no reason not to double-team Booker down low.
2. Avoid the Scoring Slump
The Tiger offense has looked fairly functional at times this season (think 17-5 run at Georgia Tech in the 2nd half), but it also has a knack for going on long scoreless droughts (think middle of the 1st half at GT) during the game. To keep this one close Clemson must avoid that dreaded scoring slump that has plagued them so often in the past, and as a result look for Brownell to push Rod Hall and KJ McDaniels to be more aggressive on the offensive end.
Brad Brown searches for the combination to beat top ACC team Miami.
3. Keep Booker out of Foul Trouble
Clemson’s biggest lack of depth comes in the post position, with Booker and Jennings as the only options while Freshman Landry Nnoko and Josh Smith are still working to develop their game at the college level. Miami has a lot of guys that can hurt you around the basket, and I would not be surprised to see Larranaga attack Devin Booker in the early going while trying to force the Tigers best player into foul trouble. With Booker on the bench, Brownell would have to rely on Jennings and Nnoko to defend the likes of Reggie Johnson and Kenny Kadji…a matchup that is more than favorable for the Canes.
From the outside this game looks like an easy Miami win, but the Canes have not looked unbeatable on the road this season and Clemson is in a good position after scoring their first ACC road win of the year. Brad Brownell has kept this team fighting hard and managed to play some close games against the likes of Arizona, Gonzaga and NC State while being overmatched in talent. Clemson also played Miami close in Coral Gables last year during their only game of the season (a 76-73 Miami victory).
After breaking down the matchups I think the Tigers will use the home court advantage to keep this game close until the very end, but closing games out is where these two teams are the most different. The young Tiger squad has had some issues closing out games, while the more veteran Miami team has stepped up big when it matters.