When: Tuesday 8pm
The Tigers came back to earth a little after putting together an improbable three-game winning streak over NCSU, UNC (in Chapel Hill!), and Duke. NCSU took advantage of an atrocious free throw shooting (and perimeter shooting) night from Clemson to win 60-54. You just aren’t going to win very many ACC games, especially on the road, when you shoot well below 50% from the line.
However, Clemson is right in the middle of a huge log jam of teams between 4-3 and 3-4 in the league. Wake is just above (checks notes) the Tarholes for dead last in the league at the moment, so this is a home game Clemson must win. Clemson has had very good success over the Demon Deacons really the tragic end of the Skip Prosser era. Danny Manning has got to be feeling a little bit of pressure as he sits at just 9-8 overall this year and with just one winning season (with a 9-9 league record) in his tenure. It seems the days of Tim Duncan, Chris Paul, Rodney Rogers, and Randolph Childress are forever ago now.
This year’s Wake team is very similar to what they have been in the Manning era, pretty good offensively but one of the weakest teams defensively in the ACC. If Clemson is going to get back right on offense, this is about the best team you can hope to draw to do that. Clemson’s helter skelter nature largely rests on the shoulders of its guard play. Tevin Mack and John Newman hit for big nights against UNC and Duke, but combined for just 19 points and 1-8 on 3-pointers against NCSU. Aamir Simms has taken his game to another level coming out of Christmas break, but he can’t do it all by himself. Mack and Newman need to be consistent 2nd and 3rd scorers, and when they are, this team can realistically beat anyone in the league (except perhaps FSU, who is a very hard matchup for Clemson). The downside is, when you have games where you can’t break 60 points, you can lose to anyone also.
Probable Starting 5
C – #30 – Oliver Sarr – Jr. – 7’0, 255 – Pts 12.8 – Reb 9.4
PF – #33 – Ody Oguama – Fr. – 6’9. 205 – Pts 3.2 – Reb 4.2
SF/SG – #13 – Andrien White – Fr. – 6’3, 200 – Pts 8.1 – Reb 3.6
SG – #11 – Torry Johnson – Sr. – 6’3, 175 – 6.3 Pts – Ast 1.1
PG – #0 – Brandon Childress – Sr. – 6’0, 195 – 15.3 Pts – 4.6 Ast
C/PF – #25 – Ismael Massoud – Fr. – 6’8, 200 – 4.8 Pts – 2.5 Reb
SG/PG – #4 – Jahcobi Neath – Fr. – 6’3, 200 – 4.2 Pts – 1.5 Reb
Out – Chaundee Brown – Jr. – 13.3 Pts – 6.5 Reb – 29.6 Min
Questionable – Isaiah Mucius – So – 6.6 Pts – 4.5 Reb – 21.6 Min
It’s all about senior guard Brandon Childress. He runs the entire show for the Demon Deacons with fellow starting guard Chaundee Brown out indefinitely with and ankle injury. He leads the team in points and assists, and will have the ball in his hand the majority of the game. He’s got a sneaky game that relies on scoring on drives, from the mid range and outside. He’s struggled from deep this year, shooting only 32% but went off against Boston College in Wake’s last game, going 5-7 from deep. Clemson can’t let him get hot. As Childress goes, so goes Wake Forest, they struggle to win if he doesn’t perform to his ability. He’s shown up big for Danny Manning in their prior two games against Boston College and Virginia Tech, but hasn’t always been the most steady performer. He’ll need to be on his game for Wake to pick up a win on the road against the Tigers.
On the inside, junior big man Oliver Sarr is a huge presence in the paint at 7’0, 255. He’s going to score some buckets because he’s bigger than everyone else on the court, but he’s got some skill to go along with his size. He’s a solid free throw shooter, good on the offensive glass, and doesn’t turn the ball over. They love to look for Sarr on the lob. He’s going to be a problem for the Tigers.
Fouls will play a major role in this game. Wake Forest makes a living at the foul line. They made it to the line 27 times against Boston College in their last game and will try and do the same against Clemson. When they get to the line on a regular basis it spells trouble because Childress and Sarr both shoot around 80% (Imagine, just imagine a team that can make free throws consistently).
Per tradition, at least one mid-level player for each opponent will have the game of his life against Clemson. I’ve got my money on Andrien White for the Clemson opponent break out player of the game award. The transfer from Charlotte is shooting 40% from deep, and Clemson loves to collapse on the drive and leave spot up shooters wide open on the perimeter. Look for Childress to drive and kick to White, or for Sarr to find White spotting up when Clemson inevitably has to double the big man.
Wake’s defense isn’t great, and on occasion, can be down right bad. Duke put up 90, FSU 78, and NC State made it to 91 earlier in the season. Brown’s injury takes away an important piece of the Wake defense. The 6’5 wing could guard both wing positions and occasionally bother a point guard with his length. With Brown out, Wake is small at point guard and on both wings. Clemson will have a size advantage on the perimeter and need to try bully the smaller guards and get to the basket.
Key Match Ups
Clemson vs Childress
I expect to see several Tigers get a shot to slow down Childress. If the Tigers can shut him down, they win the game. I don’t see Wake winning on the road without a good game from their best player. Watch for Clemson to bully him with the larger Trapp and then try and bother him with Dawes and his quickness. It’s going to take a team effort to derail Danny Manning’s senior leader.
Simms vs Sarr
If Simms can hold his own on the boards and drag Sarr away from the hoop when Clemson has the ball. I like the Tigers chances. Aamir has been a one-man wrecking crew of late, and will face another stern challenge significantly taller Sarr. Wake is going to try and pound the ball inside and get Simms in foul trouble. If that happens, Clemson is in real trouble because Jemison is the only other guy no the roster capable of banging with Sarr. I expect to see Trey on the court for extended minutes in this game, and that’s always a touch and go situation. Hopefully the big man from Alabama brings his A game.
Clemson vs The Free Throw Line
If Clemson hits their free throws against NC State at an average clip, they win the game. The Tigers aren’t good enough to leave points on the floor. If they can cash in from the line, I think they take this game rather handily.
If Clemson wants to go to the NCAA tournament, this is a must win. They’re better than Wake and on top of that, Wake may be without two key players do to injury.
If Simms and Mack show up and give Clemson a steady stream of points, things tend to fall in place further down the roster. That should be the case in this game as well. Both players should look to attack larger players off the dribble. If Simms can get Sarr in foul trouble, the Demon Deacons will be in trouble.
Bottom line, if Clemson bring their A game they win, if they bring their B game, it’s a toss up, and C and below is a loss. This game is all about what Clemson brings to the table.
KenPom – Clemson 71 – Wake 65 (71% Confidence)
Drew – Clemson 77 – Wake 62
I think the Tigers win this one going away and build some solid momentum heading into the next section of the schedule. If they have aspirations of playing in the big tournament in March, they’re going to need a big late January, early February push.
If it doesn’t start against Wake, it’s not going to happen.
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