In easily one of the most enticing games on Saturday, the 19th ranked Clemson Tigers (14-2, 3-1) will play host to the 18th ranked Miami Hurricanes (13-2, 2-1).
At the beginning of the season, not many expected this game to be a marquee ACC matchup. While the ‘Canes were projected 4th in the Preseason ACC Poll, the Tigers were projected to finish all the way down at 13th. Yet here we are heading into Saturday with both teams taking the court ranked in the top 25, both looking to gain a conference win that will surely prove huge when it comes to ACC tournament seeding.
Miami comes into the game coming off an emotional win against the rival Florida State Seminoles. Freshman Chris Lykes had a breakout performance and Bruce Brown Jr. had his best shooting performance of the season. This is a good sign for a ‘Canes team that since winning in Minnesota, has struggled to score away from home. In their last road contest the ‘Canes shot just 37.5% from the field in a 64-54 loss to Georgia Tech. The ‘Canes will need to get over their road woes if they expect to escape a very difficult environment with a victory.
The Tigers, on the other hand, are coming off their first loss in nearly two months. After dropping an early season game to the Temple Owls, the Tigers rattled off 10 straight wins, before falling to the North Carolina State Wolfpack, 78-77, on Thursday. Senior Guard Gabe Devoe had a chance to tie the game at the end of regulation, but missed the third of three free throw attempts with just .2 seconds on the clock to seal the loss. Led by Marcquise Reed, Donte Grantham, and the incredible inside presence of Elijah Thomas (11.3 PPG, 2.6 BPG, and 8.0RPG), the Tigers will look to shake off the heartbreaking loss and start a new winning streak.
If the numbers hold up, the contest should prove to be a tight one as the two teams are evenly matched across the board. Both teams come into the game shooting 48.5% from the field on the season, while Clemson has the slight edge in rebounds (37 - 36.5), assists (14 - 13.5), blocks (5.6 - 4.5), and steals (6.8 - 6.3) per game. The one area where the ‘Canes do have an edge is in points allowed, as they are still astoundingly allowing less than 60 PPG.
The Tigers will most likely be favored in game. They’re the home team, who just lost a nailbiter against a quality opponent on the road, and they are playing a team that struggles to score away from home. However, the ‘Canes have had nearly a full week to prepare for this game, while the Tigers had only one day of rest after a hard fought loss. The ‘Canes looked like they turned a corner against Florida State, a team that matched up well against them. If the scorers for the ‘Canes show up the way they did against Florida State and play up to their ability, then the ‘Canes actually do have the slight edge on the road. There is no doubt that after this game the ‘Canes incredible season average of allowing less than 60 PPG will cease to exist, but in the end the only thing that matters is winning. It’s going to be close, but the ‘Canes are just a little more talented.
Prediction: Miami 72 - Clemson 68