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Notre Dame Basketball: Clemson Game Preview

The Fighting Irish try to avoid a four-game losing streak on the road at Clemson

NCAA Basketball: Notre Dame at Georgia Tech Adam Hagy-USA TODAY Sports

There’s been a lot of heartbreak lately for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. If not for a one-point loss to UNC followed by a double-overtime loss to Louisville, they would still be in great shape in the ACC standings. Now the Irish have fallen to 3-3 in the conference, and if they don’t break this losing streak when they travel to Clemson to face the Tigers, I’m really going to start worrying about their chances to make the NCAA tournament.

Quick Facts:

  • Notre Dame is 5-0 all-time against Clemson, with all five victories coming as ACC opponents.
  • The Irish are 1-0 all-time at Littlejohn Coliseum and will be making their first visit since the arena was refurbished for the 2016-17 season.
  • Notre Dame’s 48 team rebounds against Louisville on Tuesday marked a program-high in ACC play.
  • Martinas Geben set a Notre Dame record for most offensive rebounds in a game with 11 against Louisville.
  • Geben is one of only five players in the ACC to average a double-double in conference play this season.
  • The Clemson Tigers are undefeated at home this season with a 10-0 record at Littlejohn Coliseum.

WHEN: Saturday, January 20, 2018, 4:00 p.m. ET

WHERE: Littlejohn Coliseum, Clemson, SC

HOW TO WATCH: ESPN national broadcast with Bob Wischusen and Dick Vitale. Also available on the ESPN app.

Notre Dame Basketball Radio Network with Jack Nolan and Zach Hillesland. Available locally on WSBT-AM 960/FM 96.1, via network affiliates and worldwide on WatchND.tv.

Clemson Tigers (15-3, 4-2 ACC)

NCAA Basketball: Clemson at North Carolina Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

After years of finishing in the middle of the pack, Clemson has emerged as one of the stronger teams in the ACC this season. The Tigers have already beaten Louisville and Miami, and their two conference losses came against North Carolina and NC State. They are ranked No. 20 in the nation currently, the first time they have cracked the top-25 since 2010.

The Tigers are led by Marcquise Reed, a redshirt-junior guard who averages 15.9 points per game and is second on the team in assists. A close second is senior forward Donte Grantham, averaging 14.9 points and 7.4 rebounds per game. Reed has scored 20 or more points in four games this season, most recently with 24 in Clemson’s overtime win against Louisville.

Clemson’s three other starters all average double figures in scoring too. Junior forward Elijah Thomas, who leads the team in rebounding at 7.9 per game, also puts up 10.9 points per game. Redshirt-junior guard Shelton Mitchell averages 12 points per game while leading the team in assists, and senior guard Gabe DeVoe adds 11.5 per game. Outside of the starting five, however, no other Tiger averages more than 15 minutes and 4.2 points per game.

As a whole, the Tigers are a well-rounded team with a ton of experience. They shoot the ball well from the floor at 48.2 percent and they also average a solid 36.9 rebounds per game. They are slightly weaker from outside with a 37.4 percent three-point percentage, but the Tigers average 77.4 points per game and have held opponents to an average of 64.4.

Tiger to Watch:

NCAA Basketball: Clemson at North Carolina Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Donte Grantham, F, Senior

Grantham is the most complete player on this team. At 6-foot-8 and 215 pounds he is hard to handle in the paint but can also make you pay from outside. In fact, Grantham leads the team in three-point percentage at 42.6. Grantham recently became one of only six Clemson players to reach 1,000 points, 500 rebounds and 200 assists for his career. Grantham is also shooting 56 percent from the floor, nearly a 20 percent improvement over his career average coming into this season. He will be a tough matchup for the Irish without D.J. Harvey.

Irish X-Factor:

T.J. Gibbs, G, Sophomore

Gibbs simply has to score more now that Matt Farrell is back in the lineup and Harvey is on the shelf. Against North Carolina Gibbs was good but he still shot just 6-20, and against Louisville he shot 5-17. If he showed up in that game I’m confident the Irish would have won in regulation. Farrell and Gibbs make a great tandem when they are both scoring and facilitating, so Gibbs has to be more consistent for Notre Dame to have any chance to stay alive in the ACC.

Prediction:

Notre Dame 68 - Clemson 62

This is a must win game if you ask me. The Irish have a tough road ahead of them with games against Duke, North Carolina, Florida State, Miami and Virginia. To fall into a four-game losing streak would be devastating so I have to keep the faith alive and say the Irish will rise to the occasion against Clemson. If Geben can keep being a beast in the paint, Gibbs steps up and knocks down some threes and Farrell disrupts the pace like he always does, Notre Dame can fight with anybody.