The Clemson Tigers are squarely on the bubble. With an RPI of 69, and an 18-10 (9-7) record they have earned the right for serious consideration by the NCAA Tournament committee, but they still have work to do.
They can not afford to let the suddenly hot Hurricanes come into their building and beat them if they hope to get the nod.
But the 'Canes are playing some of their best ball of the season, so how does this one play out?
For these story lines and more we caught up with Mark Gordon of Shaking the Southland.
Here is out full Q&A:
SOTU: For those who have not seen him in action, Can you tell us exactly how good K.J. McDaniels has been this year?
STS: It’s hard to put into words just how special of a player K.J. McDaniels has been this year. I may be a bit biased, but he may be the most athletic college basketball player that I have seen in some time. He is guaranteed to drop your jaw at least twice a game. It doesn’t stop with the scoring for McDaniels. He is the only player in the NCAA to lead his team in 5 statistical categories (Points, Rebounds, Blocks, Steals and 3 Pointers Made). Even on an off night offensively, his presence is still felt on the defensive end of the court. He has vastly improved his shot, which still has some work to do, but Hurricane fans will be treated to some freak plays tomorrow night.
SOTU: Speaking of great seasons, who gets your nod as ACC Player of the Year? What is your ALL ACC Team?
STS: To me this is a 2 man race between T.J. Warren and Jabari Parker with my nod going to T.J. Warren of NC State. On a team with not much talent around him when all eyes are on him, he still manages 23 points per game and is a top 10 scorer in the NCAA. As for my All ACC team this year, I would have to go by position with my Guards being Rodney Hood of Duke and Olivier Hanlan of BC, Forwards the aforementioned T.J. Warren and Jabari Parker, and my top Center in the Conference is Talib Zanna of Pittsburgh. My honorable mentions go to K.J. McDaniels (F) Clemson, Lamar Patterson (F) Pittsburgh Jerami Grant (F) Syracuse and Marcus Paige (G) North Carolina.
STS: Great question, I had some fun with this one and it was a really tough decision. I would have to go with Elden Campbell (leading scorer in Clemson history with 1,880 career points) Butch Zatezalo (Clemson’s career scoring average leader with 23.5ppg) Wayne "Tree" Rollins (Clemson’s career leader in rebounds and blocked shots) Dale Davis (Number 2 in all time in rebounding and number 8 all time in scoring) and Horace Grant (1987 ACC Player of the year). I would be crazy if I didn’t mention the people I left out of my top 5 including Greg Buckner, Bobby Conrad, Banks McFadden, Terrell McIntyre, Larry Nance, Will Solomon, and Sharon Wright who I all considered putting in my top 5.
SOTU: What does Clemson need to do to secure a birth in the NCAA Tournament field of 68?
STS: It is going to take A LOT. Clemson just doesn’t have the resume of a tournament team right now. With only 1 win against the RPI top 50 in a thrashing of Duke, and bad losses @Auburn, @Notre Dame and @Wake Forest, to be considered Clemson will have to beat both Miami and Pittsburgh and at least make the finals of the ACC Tournament to get into the field of 68 and an NCAA Tournament birth. Depending on what mid-majors steal spots during the conference tournaments, even that may not be enough for Clemson to get in. I see the Tigers as a #1 seed in the NIT with a strong finish.
SOTU: Which under the radar players on the Tigers should fans keep an eye out for?
STS: K.J. McDaniels has been the definition of a 1-man-show for the Tigers this year, but recently some role players have emerged that can sway a game. Damarcus Harrison has averaged about 15ppg in his last three outings and can shoot the 3-ball and get to the basket. Point Guard Rod Hall is mostly known as a game manager, but recently has looked to score and is a master of the mid-range floater. Look for him to utilize the high ball screen and attack the basket if Miami focuses on McDaniels.
SOTU: Which match-ups or players on Miami concern you?
STS: Flat out, the zone defense. Clemson has been DREADFUL against the zone this season, including our last outing as it caused a loss in a make or break game at Wake Forest. The offense becomes stagnant as you see simple passes around the perimeter until someone takes a desperation shot late in the shot clock. Player wise, Miami’s size has me worried. The Hurricanes can put a line-up on the floor with all players 6’5" or taller. Clemson is thin in the front court and if Center Landry Nnoko gets into foul trouble, Clemson could be in for a long night.
SOTU: Finally, How do you see this one playing out? Who wins and why?
STS: After watching how Clemson has handled the zone defense all year, I see this being a game where the first team to reach 50 points will win. Clemson’s defense ranks third in the country in points allowed per game with their stingy pressure man defense. With how dreadful Clemson has played against the zone, I don’t see Clemson pulling this one out unless they shoot over 45% from the field.
Thanks again to Mark Gordon with Shaking the Southland for giving us the scoop on the Tigers. Be sure to check out the game tonight at 8PM.
March 4, 2014 | 8 p.m.
Littlejohn Coliseum | Clemson, S.C.
TV: ACC Network - My 33 in Miami (all affiliates)
Watch the game on these affiliates in Florida: Jacksonville: WAWS-D2; Miami-Fort Lauderdale: MY 33; Orlando-Daytona Beach-Melbourne: My 65; Panama City: This Panama City (13.2); West Palm Beach-Ft. Pierce: My 15.
Radio: 560 WQAM
Web: WQAM.com | Watch ESPN