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Notre Dame Basketball: Clemson Preview

The Irish look to improve to 3-0 in the ACC against a tough Clemson Tigers team.

NCAA Basketball: Clemson at Wake Forest Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Before the Clemson Tigers look to avenge last year’s to Alabama on Monday night in the College Football Playoff, the Tigers basketball team will be looking to pay back Notre Dame for four straight losses on Saturday afternoon in Purcell Pavilion. The Irish took down the Tigers last year at Clemson 89-83.

NCAA Basketball: North Carolina at Clemson Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

The Tigers come in at 11-3 (1-1 ACC) with losses to Xavier, Oklahoma, and North Carolina. Last time out Clemson took the Tar Heels to overtime, but fell 89-86. There is no easy out in the ACC this season, so the Irish will have to bring their A-game.

Notre Dame (13-2, 2-0 ACC) rides in as one of two undefeated teams in the ACC (the other being Florida State). The Irish took down the No.9 Louisville Cardinals on Wednesday night 77-70.

Game Notes

  • The Irish and Tigers had never met before ND joined the ACC, but since then Notre Dame is 4-0 all-time against Clemson.
  • According to KenPom.com, the Irish are ranked 26th in the country and the Tigers are ranked 23rd.
  • Notre Dame is rated 8th in KenPom’s adjusted offensive efficiency ratings.
  • In its first two ACC games Notre Dame has held opponents under 40% shooting.
  • Against seven Power 6 opponents this season Irish point guard Matt Farrell is averaging 18.6 points, 5.7 assists and is shooting 48% from the field, 47% from three, and 92% from the line.
  • Saturday will mark Mike Brey’s 700th game as a head coach. He will become just the 35th head coach ever to reach the milestone.
  • Brey is just 24 wins away from Notre Dame’s all-time record of 393 held by Digger Phelps.

When: Saturday, January 7th, 2017, 3:00pm ET

Where: Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center, Notre Dame, IN

How to Watch: ESPNU, WatchESPN

Clemson Tigers (11-3, 1-1 ACC)

NCAA Basketball: Clemson at Wake Forest Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

The Tigers went just 17-14 (10-8 ACC) last season, but they return a good chunk of their roster. This year the Tigers have NCAA Tournament hopes as they brought back do-it-all wing Jaron Blossomgame, as well their second and third leading scorers Donte Grantham and Avry Holmes.

They also have a newcomer in transfer Marquise Reed from Robert Morris. Reed has been a key weapon off the bench for Brad Brownell’s squad, as he is the Tigers’ third leading scorer at 10.8 points per game. In his first two ACC games Reed is averaging 19.0 points per game.

Because of their veteran and deep roster (seven players average over 20 minutes) Clemson is capable of beating anybody. They hung well with North Carolina and Xavier, and earned victories against a ranked South Carolina, Alabama, and a Nebraska team who has made some noise in the Big Ten. Brownell is in his seventh season as the head coach of the Tigers and has only made the NCAA Tournament once, so this is a make or break season for him.

Three Weaknesses

Defensive Rebounding: The Tigers rank 292nd nationally in defensive rebounding percentage. Notre Dame found a way to out rebound long and athletic Louisville team on Wednesday night, suspect them to do the same against Clemson.

Three point shooting: Clemson are not going to fill it up from the outside. They rank in 169th in three-point shooting percentage, as well as 135th in points from three-pointers.

Sharing the Rock: The Tigers are averaging just a tick over 13.5 assists per game. That ranks 152nd in the country. Notre Dame on the other hand averages 17.8 - good for 12th overall.

NCAA Basketball: ACC conference Tournament-Georgia Tech vs Clemson Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Three Strengths

Taking Care of the Ball: The Tigers cough it up 11 times per game, which is good for 20th nationally. This should be a clean game because the Irish are in the top ten in turnovers per game.

Fouling: The Tigers do a great job of not fouling and in turn they limit opponents free throw attempts. Clemson fouls just 14.9 times a game - good for third nationally - and their opponents shoot just 12.4 foul shots per game - also good for third nationally. We saw how Notre Dame essentially put the game away at the line against Louisville, that may not be the case on Saturday.

Offense/Defense: Clemson is solid on both ends of the court. Offensively their averaging 78.3 points per game (60th) and rank 31st in offensive efficiency. On the other end of the court the Tigers rank 53rd in opponents PPG (66.1) and 31st in defensive efficiency.

Tigers to Watch

Jaron Blossomgame - 6’7”, Wing, Senior

NCAA Basketball: Clemson at Wake Forest Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Although he’s never beaten the Irish, Blossomgame has caused fits for them in the past. In four games against Notre Dame the senior has averaged 17.8 points per game and has shot 62% from the field. In last season’s matchup Blossomgame dropped 30 points on 13-19 shooting. This season he’s averaging 17.8 points, 5.9 rebounds and is shooting almost 50% from the field. His outside game has taken a drastic downturn though. Last year he shot nearly 45% from three, this season he’s just 16% from the outside.

Shelton Mitchell - 6’3”, Guard, RS Sophomore

NCAA Basketball: Clemson at Wake Forest Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Mitchell is a transfer from Vanderbilt and so far has been solid manning the point for Clemson. In 10 games this season he’s averaging 9.8 points, 3.2 assists and 2.2 rebounds per contest. His 3.2 assists leads the team. He’s also capable of stepping out and knocking down the three as shown by his 43% 3P%.

Pick to Click

Bonzie Colson - 6’5”, Forward, Junior

NCAA Basketball: Louisville at Notre Dame Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Colson has been hot to start ACC action. In his first two games he’s picked up his conference leading eighth and ninth double-doubles. Colson will have a tough matchup with one of the ACC’s best rebounders in Sidy Djitte. Both Colson and Djitte both rank in the top 5 in rebounding in the ACC - Colson leads with 10.8 RPG. Despite the tough matchup, I’m sticking with Colson. Colson has had tough matchups before and still finds a way to get his numbers.

Prediction

Notre Dame 82 - Clemson 74

This is the last game without the students in the building, so again it will be a more tamed crowd. That being said, the crowd was pretty lively on Wednesday night against Louisville. Notre Dame has yet to lose in Purcell Pavilion this season and I don’t see Clemson being the ones to snap that streak.

Clemson is a solid team though and will give Notre Dame everything they can handle. I see this one close most of the way, with the Irish pulling away in the second half. Blossomgame will have an excellent game, but Colson, Steve Vasturia, and Matt Farrell will be too much in the end.