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NCAA Tournament Opponent At A Glance: Clemson Tigers

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Find out more about Rutgers’ opening round opponent.

NCAA Basketball: Georgia Tech at Clemson Ken Ruinard-USA TODAY Sports

Clemson Tigers

Overall Record: 16-7

ACC Record: 10-6 (6th place finish)

NET Ranking: 41 (Rutgers 38)

Head Coach: Brad Bronwell, 12th season, lead Clemson to 2018 Sweet Sixteen, third NCAA Tournament appearance

Best Wins: KenPom no. 8 Alabama 64-56 on neutral court on 12/12/20; KenPom no. 13 Purdue 81-70 on neutral court on 11/26/20; KenPom no. 15 Florida State 77-67 at home on 12/29/20; KenPom no. 28 North Carolina at home on 2/2/21

Worst Losses: KenPom no. 50 Virginia Tech 66-60 away on 12/15/20; KenPom no. 132 Miami (FL) 67-64 in ACC Tournament on 3/10/21

Like for Like Opponents: Maryland, Purdue, Syracuse (Clemson 3-1; Rutgers 3-1)

Strength of Schedule: Clemson 29th; Rutgers 7th

Series History: Clemson is 2-1 all-time against Rutgers. The last meeting came at the MGM Grand Main Event in Las Vegas on November 25, 2015 with the Tigers winning 76-58. The season before Rutgers won at Clemson 69-64 in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. The only other meeting came in the second round of the 1999 NIT with Clemson winning 78-68.

KenPom Ranking: Clemson 42; Rutgers 34

Offensive Efficiency: Clemson 99th; Rutgers 75th

Defensive Efficiency: Clemson 20th; Rutgers 18th

ACC Efficiency ranks: 12th offensive efficiency; 6th defensive efficiency

Clemson Strengths: 31st in Free throw shooting percentage at 76.5%; 49th in defensive turnover rate

Weaknesses: 205th offensive rebounding rate; 251st block rate; 268th steal rate; 336th in free throw attempts vs. field goals attempted;

Key Players

Aamir Simms (6’9” senior) - 13.3 points, 6.2 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 54.3% FG, 40.7% 3-pt FG; 82.5% FT

Al-Amir Dawes (6’2” sophomore) - 9.0 points, 2.1 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 42.4% FG, 38.7% 3-pt FG, 74.2% FT

Nick Honor (6’2” redshirt sophomore) - 8.4 points, 2.3 assists, 1.4 steals, 1.3 rebounds, 40.5% FG, 38.5% 3-pt FG, 73.9% FT

Hunter Tyson (6’8” junior) - 7.4 points, 4.3 rebounds, 47.3% FG, 41.7% 3-pt FG, 77.1% FT

Clyde Trapp (6’4” senior) - 7.0 points, 5.4 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 40.3% FG, 34.5% 3-pt FG, 58.3% FT

Alex Hemenway (6’4” sophomore) - 4.7 points, 1.3 rebounds, 42.2% FG, 39.0% 3-pt FG, 88.9% FT

Jonathan Baehre (6’10” senior) - 4.4 points, 3.2 rebounds, 39.8% FG, 27.6% 3-pt FG, 85.2% FT

Quick Thoughts

Clemson is having a somewhat similar season to Rutgers. Their highest ranked wins came before the calendar turned to 2021, but they are impressive victories that included high seeded teams in the NCAA Tournament in Alabama (2 seed), Purdue (4 seed) and Florida State (4 seed). However, they struggled in January with losing four out of five games. They recovered to go on a five game winning streak, but head into the tournament losing two of its last three.

They play one of the slowest paces in college basketball (338th) and shoot a ton of threes, averaging 24 attempts per game while shooting 34.6% as a team. The Tigers can really light it up from deep at times, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t beatable. They just made 12 of 23 attempts in an upset loss to a bad Miami team (10-17) in the second round of the ACC Tournament. They were only 11 of 26 from inside the arc and only took 6 free throws. I’ll have more on their offense in the game preview, but they are a good shooting team that doesn’t like to drive and draw contact or crash the offensive glass, so they are susceptible to scoring droughts.

Clemson has multiple shooters, but not a strong inside presence other than its best player, Aamir Simms, who was just named Second Team All-ACC last week. He is a very good player and the only one in his league to lead his team in points, rebounds and assists, which he did for a second straight season. He also has a high offensive rebounding rate (166th), block rate (327th) and is a efficient shooter from all over the court.

Newark native Al-Amir Dawes was the 5th highest rated prospect in New Jersey for the loaded 2019 recruiting class that include Scottie Lewis (Florida), Bryan Antoine (Villanova), Khalil Whitney (Kentucky), Khalif Battle (Butler), Zach Freemantle (Xavier), and Paul Mulcahy (Rutgers). He is a very good three-point shooter but has run hot and cold down the stretch this season.

Nick Honor is the former Fordham guard who destroyed Rutgers in Rose Hill on December 8, 2018 when he scored 30 points on 10 of 17 shooting, including 5 of 7 from three. He is the third leading scorer on Clemson and has a high assist rate, low turnover rate and high steal rate. Paging Jacob Young.

Another notable tidbit is that the ACC was not good this year. They finished fifth in the conference efficiency ratings of KenPom, more than six points below the Big Ten, which finished with the highest efficiency in the history of KenPom.

The Tigers are not big or physical, aren’t a great rebounding team and don’t look to run. They do play tough defense, but they are susceptible to the three and giving up second chance points. It’s an ideal opponent for Rutgers in the First Round of the NCAA Tournament based on its seeding and potential other matchups. However, this game will not be easy and we all know that if the Scarlet Knights don’t play to their potential, they are vulnerable to any opponent. At first glance, this is a winnable game that will hinge on Rutgers’ ability to defend, force turnovers and rebound, while taking care of the basketball, attacking the rim and getting to the foul line to drive up the free throw margin.

For all of our coverage leading up to Friday’s game, click here.