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Wake Forest vs. Clemson Preview

The Demon Deacons head to Clemson, SC to take on the Clemson Tigers at high noon today.

Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

The Deacs are finally done with one of the harder conference stretches that you will ever see and look to transition into an easier part of the conference schedule over the next two weeks. Coming off of losses to Duke, Louisville, Syracuse, and North Carolina, with a win against Georgia Tech sandwiched in there, the Deacs are 1-5 in the ACC.

Coach Danny Manning is hoping to reverse that trend this afternoon as the Deacs head down to Littlejohn  to take on the Clemson Tigers at noon. The Tigers are 10-8 overall, but just 2-4 in the ACC. Both teams are coming off of home losses, Wake to UNC, and Clemson to Florida State on Monday night.

Clemson has been a bit of an enigma so far this season. They have wins over LSU, Arkansas, Syracuse and Pittsburgh, but have suffered losses to Winthrop, Gardner-Webb, and Rutgers. Brad Brownell is in his 5th year at the helm of the basketball program, and a lot of Clemson fans are starting to get impatient with his lack of progress.

After winning 22 games in his first season in Death Valley, Brownell has eclipsed the 20 win mark just once more (23 wins  last year). At just 10 wins thus far, it seems highly unlikely that the TIgers will make it back to 20 wins this year.

Overall, Clemson is above average defensively, and literally THE average in the NCAA offensively. In terms of adjusted efficiency the Tigers allow 96.8 points per 100 possessions on defense, and score 101.2 points per possession on offense (ranking 169th in the country).

The Tigers are pretty good on the boards, ranking 80th in offensive rebounds (compared to Wake's 3rd nationally in defensive rebounding), but just 150th in defensive rebounding (compared to Wake's 80th on the offensive boards).

One of the problem areas for Wake Forest, particularly in conference play, has been its inability to defend inside the perimeter. The Deacs rank dead last in ACC play in 2-point FG% at 54%. Fortunately Clemson has struggled shooting from inside at 40% in its 6 ACC games.

Focusing on this year, Clemson and Wake Forest are diametric opposites in terms of pace of play. Clemson prefers to slow it down (322nd in tempo according to Ken Pomeroy, and 14th in the ACC), while Wake Forest likes a higher pace of play (28th in tempo, 1st in the ACC).

That will be an interesting battle to watch, but in a pace article that Bart has been working on, research has shown that slower teams tend to fare better against fast paced teams than the reverse. Of course in a one game sample size anything can happen, so let's hope the Deacs buck that trend!

Clemson has not seen a 70 possession game since Auburn on December 14th, a span of 9 games. The Deacs have only played 6 games under 70 possessions all year.

Interestingly enough, Wake Forest is 4-2 in games under 70 possessions, while just 5-8 in games with 70 possessions or more. Clemson is 1-1 in 70+ possession games, and 9-7 in 70 or fewer possessions.

Another major difference in the two styles of play is the division of minutes between starters and bench players. Clemson prefers to primarily stick with their starters with just 25% of its total minutes coming from bench (317th fewest in the NCAA), while Wake plays its bench 38% of the possible 200 minutes (52nd most in the country).

A player for Wake fans to watch today is sophomore Jaron Blossongame, who has stepped his game up tremendously from last year as a freshman. His 107.9 offensive rating is second on the team (to Sidy Djittes' 117.5, who only plays just 27% of the minutes). From what I have seen he is not yet the type of player where an offense can run through him, but he does a nice job of finishing down low and getting to the free throw line.

Clemson has started the same five players every single game this year, which I can only assume is an anomaly in the NCAA (Wake has gone through 5 different starting lineups already this year). Barring any huge surprises, or injuries that I don't know about it will be: Rod Hall, Damarcus Harrison, Jaron Blossomgame, Donte Grantham, and Landy Nnoko getting the start for the Tigers.

Rod Hall is another player to keep an eye on as the game progresses. He plays 88.3% of the minutes, 11th most in the country, and also ranks 12th in assist rate at 25.6%.

In order for the Deacs to go to Death Valley and get a win they will need to: win the rebounding battle, pound the ball inside to Thomas, and defend better than they have been from inside the 3-point line.

Clemson is the best team in ACC play in defensive 3-point percentage at 30.3%. Wake Forest rushed shots in the second half against UNC and forced up long three after long three. If they do that today I expect similar results to Wednesday night.

Danny Manning got into the Deacs in the locker room after the UNC game and I do not expect another flat performance. This is a young team that has so far responded well to Manning and I think that trend will continue today. I think Devin Thomas has another double-double and leads Wake to its third ACC road win in three years.