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Wake Forest vs. Clemson Preview: Q&A w/ Shakin The Southland

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I talked with my good friend Ryan Kantor about Tuesday's game against Clemson.

Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

Blogger So Dear: Clemson is currently 13-8, 6-3 in ACC play. How does that compare to preseason expectations?

Shakin The Southland: Well, 13 wins isn't too shocking, but how we got here is a real head scratcher. Clemson played five legitimate non-conference opponents (not even five good ones, just five that you've heard of). We figured the Tigers would go 2-3 or 3-2 against them and finish with 9 or 10 non-conference wins. That was not the case. The Tigers sputtered out of the gate and were just 7-5 after getting blown out by the UGA Bulldogs.

At that point, our preseason hope for 8 or 9 ACC wins seems downright silly. Miraculously, the Tigers beat Florida State, Syracuse, Louisville, Duke, and Miami consecutively. Now, they've already navigated the toughest half of their ACC schedule. With NC State, Wake Forest, Virginia Tech, Boston College (twice), and Georgia Tech (twice) they should be able to duplicate their 6-3 record over their first half of conference play in their final 9 games, even with some regression. That would certainly exceed our preseason expectations.

BSD: Most ACC fans know about Jaron Bloggomgame. Who is another player for Clemson who you consider to be an x-factor in this upcoming contest?

STS: Jordan Roper is a quick, lefty combo guard with a great mid-range jumper and good (but streaky) three-point stroke. If he gets hot, watch out!

Landry Nnoko, our starting center, is another to watch. He's developed his post moves and can knock down hook shots around the basket. It'll be interested to see if Devin Thomas gets him in foul trouble as he was throughout Saturday's loss to FSU.

BSD: What's the current buzz around the Clemson basketball program?

STS: Clemson basketball's horrendous start to the season coupled with Clemson football's amazing run to the National Championship made basketball take a back seat. Now that they have played their way back into postseason relevance, folks are starting to re-take an interest, but you also have National Signing Day on Wednesday which is a huge deal.

We're generally surprised every time we beat a major opponent, even if we analyze the game and select the Tigers to win, as was the case with Pittsburgh.

BSD: Clemson has almost already matched last year's win total. What's been the biggest difference between this year and last year?

STS: The Tigers are shooting 5.7 percentage points better from three and the total proportion of their points that come from behind the arc has jumped from 26.4% to 33.4%. Transfer guard Avry Holmes has helped this cause. Improved shooting from Jordan Roper, Gabe DeVoe, Donte Grantham, and Jaron Blossomgame has contributed a great deal to this offensive improvement.

In addition, the Tigers are passing the ball better. A year ago, 47.9% of their field goals were as a result of an assist. This year it is up to 58.0%. Part of this is surely that they are knocking down more open shots, but the eye test tells me it is also that the threat is opening up the offense and they are making better passes.

BSD: Finally, who do you have in this one?

STS: KenPom gives the Tigers a 54% chance to collect the road win. Unless Devin Thomas has a great game, I feel good about Clemson's odds.

Again, many thanks to Ryan for taking the time to answer my questions. You can follow him on Twitter @Ryan_Kantor. You can check out my answers HERE. For all things Clemson, be sure to check out Shakin The Southland. They do an outstanding job covering the Tigers.