Duke (24-7, 13-5) – Clemson (20-11, 11-8) ACC Tournament Preview
Randy Dunson & Brian Horace
March 14, 2014
Duke earned the No. 3 seed in the ACC Tournament and will play in the quarterfinal Friday, March 14, at 9 PM against sixth-seeded Clemson. The Blue Devils have won nine straight ACC Tournament games as the No. 3 seed. Duke enters the tournament ranked No. 7 in the Associated Press poll and No. 6 in the USA Today Coaches Poll. Duke has been ranked in the top 10 in 14 of the 19 polls this season. Duke is 79-22 all-time when playing as the No. 7 team in the AP poll. The Blue Devils are 18-2 when playing in the state of North Carolina this season. Duke went 17-0 at home in Cameron Indoor Stadium with losses at North Carolina (66-74) and Wake Forest (72-82). The Blue Devils’ other in-state victory came at Greensboro Coliseum in the form of an 86-48 win over Elon on December 31, 2013.
The Tigers advance to face No. 3 seed Duke on Friday in a rematch from the January 11 meeting that saw Clemson win 72-59 in Littlejohn Coliseum. Clemson is 4-0 against the three teams that make up its quarter of the ACC Tournament bracket. The Tigers are 3-0 versus Georgia Tech and won their only meetings against Boston College and No. 3 seed Duke. Clemson is the sixth seed for the 10th time in ACC Tournament history. Two of Clemson’s best moments came as the sixth seed; in 1962, the Tigers advanced to the championship and in 1996 upset No. 3 seed North Carolina.
Team Seasons Thus Far
Clemson overcame a nine-point deficit in the second half and survived a second straight overtime game, prevailing 69-65 over Georgia Tech in the second round of the ACC Tournament. Daniel Miller forced overtime for the Yellow Jackets with 0.9 seconds left and Clemson trailed by as much as three in overtime, but found a way to win its 20th game of the 2013-14 season. Clemson trailed 49-40 after Marcus Georges-Hunt scored inside with 7:50 remaining, but a 13-2 spurt by the Tigers culminated with Jaron Blossomgame’s tip-in and lead change with 3:36 to play. He added another put back with 85 seconds to play that gave Clemson a four-point edge. However, Tech scored twice in the final minute, including the improbable fall away jumper by Miller with 0.9 seconds remaining. The Tigers shot just 37 percent for the game, but held Tech to the same field goal accuracy in a slugfest. Clemson won the battle of the boards, 40-37. A huge advantage for the Tigers on Friday came at the free throw line, where Clemson made 25-of-29 for a .862 mark. K.J. McDaniels led Clemson with 18 points, despite only four made field goals Thursday. Rod Hall posted all 10 of his points after halftime, while Damarcus Harrison scored 10 of his 12 points after the intermission as well. Harrison hit the go-ahead layup in overtime, and Clemson salted the game away at the charity stripe.
The Tigers are led by junior forward K.J. McDaniels (17.2 PPG, 7.1 RPG). He is complemented primarily by junior guard Rod Hall (9.6 PPG, 3.9 APG), sophomore guard Jordan Roper (7.0 PPG, 1.2 APG), and sophomore center Landry Nnoko (6.2 PPG, 6.2 RPG). Clemson is atop two important categories as a team in the latest statistical rankings released by the ACC. The Tigers are No. 1 in three-point percentage defense (.281) and blocks per game (5.8). Clemson has never led the ACC in free throw accuracy in 60 previous seasons as a league member. The school record is .734, set in 1981-82. However, Clemson is currently No. 2 in the league at .733, slightly behind Boston College for the top spot. Clemson’s blocks per game average is on pace to be the best by a Tiger team since the 1989-90 squad featuring Elden Campbell and Dale Davis. Clemson is also second in scoring defense (57.6) and third in field goal percentage defense (.397). The Tigers’ scoring D is on pace to be the program’s best in the ACC era (61 seasons)
Duke Blue Devils
In their last outing, freshman forward Jabari Parker turned in one of the all-time great performances in the history of the Duke-North Carolina rivalry, scoring 30 points with 11 rebounds to lead the Blue Devils past the Tar Heels, 93-81. Parker hit 10-of-17 field goals and 8-of-9 shots from the free throw line. Parker’s 30 points were the most by a Duke freshman in the Duke-North Carolina series, while his 30-10 performance was only the eighth under head coach Mike Krzyzewski (five players). Sophomore (redshirt) forward Rodney Hood added 24 points on 8-of-13 shooting for Duke as he and Parker combined for a season-high 54 points in the win. Duke outrebounded North Carolina 34-20 and pulled down 16 offensive boards. The win wrapped up an undefeated home season for the Blue Devils, who finished 17-0 at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Duke has gone undefeated at home in back-to-back seasons and 18 times overall.
Duke has won at least one ACC Tournament game in 14 of the last 16 years. The Blue Devils are 36-6 with 10 league titles in that span. The Blue Devils are 6-4 on the season against teams currently ranked in the top 50 of the RPI. Four of Duke’s wins (Syracuse, Michigan, Virginia, and North Carolina) were against top 20 teams in the RPI. Jabari Parker was named first team All-America (USBWA, Sporting News and Sports Illustrated), becoming the first Duke freshman to earn first team All-America honors. Parker is only the second Duke freshman to earn All-America status, joining Austin Rivers, an NABC third team All-America selection in 2012. Parker was named ACC Freshman of the Year after leading the ACC during the regular season in rebounds (9.0 RPG) and double-doubles (14), ranking second in scoring (19.2 PPG) and 20-point games (16) and third in field goal percentage (.487 – 209-of-429). Parker is attempting to become only the fourth freshman in conference history to lead the league in rebounds. He has registered six consecutive double-doubles and is averaging 18.7 points, 11.3 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game, while shooting .534 (39-of-73) from the field in that stretch.
Rodney Hood has hit a three-pointer in 28 consecutive games and in 30 of 31 games overall. He has made a team-high 65 treys while shooting .425 (65-of-153) from behind the arc, second in the league behind only teammate fifth-year senior guard Andre Dawkins (.433 – 61-of-141). Hood is averaging 20.3 points per game, while going 23-of-44 (.523) from the field in the last three games. Parker is one of just six freshmen since 1997 to average at least 19 points and nine rebounds a game. The others were Kevin Durant (Texas – 2007), Michael Beasley (Kansas State – 2008), Kris Humphries (Minnesota – 2004), Carmelo Anthony (Syracuse – 2003) and Troy Murphy (Notre Dame – 1998). Senior guard Tyler Thornton has a team-leading 3.90 assist-to-turnover ratio on the season while averaging 2.4 assists per game. He has just three games with more than one turnover this season, including 16 games with zero turnovers. Duke owns an assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.50:1, which would rank as the second-highest ratio since Duke began tracking turnovers in the 1970-71 season. The Blue Devils logged a school-record 1.51:1 assist-to-turnover ratio last season.
Duke leads the overall series 105-30 dating back to 1926. Since 1980, the Devils have continued their dominance over the Tigers, winning of the 51 of the 64 games played. Since consecutive wins over Duke in the 2007-08 and 2008-09 seasons, Duke had reeled off five straight victories over Clemson until things came crashing down on January 11 when the Tigers throttled Duke 72-59 in Littlejohn Coliseum. Clemson owns just 30 victories all-time against Duke, but 21 have come at home and 18 inside Littlejohn Coliseum.
In terms of a few select statistical parameters, Duke pretty much predominates in each, which gives the Blue Devils a significant edge head-to-head.
Four factors to Winning
Duke has three keys (factors) that favor them while the Tigers have a slight edge in one. Duke holds a commanding edge in eFG%, 54.4% to 46.4% and in shooting free throws (FT rate), 43.5% to 33%. They are also a better ball handling team when looking at TO% (14.3% to 18.1%). Clemson has a very slight edge in OR%, 35.1% to 34.1%.
Key Points to Consider
Clearly, in the game of basketball, your goal is to score more points than the opponent does but in order for Duke to do that, it has to actually stop the Tigers from scoring. If Duke can set the tone defensively and how it scraps for rebounds and loose balls it will be able to win this game. There are of course other areas of concern aside from rebounding and defensive efficiency – Duke needs to either shoot the 3 well or make sure it’s shot selection improves and get points from the paint out to the foul line. Duke has the weapons to do this as long as they are not settling for tough 3’s as the shot clock expires. A good three is when the ball is moving, the defense is scattering to react, and you create distance by reversing the ball to making the extra pass. A bad three is one where the guards are dribbling the ball around the perimeter as the shot clock winds down and heaves one that is not in rhythm and out of desperation. Duke will need to either have that 3rd guy putting up numbers be in Andre Dawkins, Quinn Cook or Rasheed Sulaimon, but if Duke can get everyone involved the load can be shared amongst them all. Marshall Plumlee could be a factor for Duke on the boards in this game. If the 7 footer can continue the strides he has been making in the last couple of months it could be huge for Duke
So, what is on the line in this Clemson game? Well quite a few things for the Blue Devils: A trip to the next round of the ACC Championship, as well as a chance to impress the committee before selection Sunday, and a chance to get the ship righted. Duke looked bad at Wake, good at home against UNC so this game will show this team which Duke we should expect going forward. Most importantly for Duke in our opinion is avenging its worst defeat of the year as far as point total, Clemson made Duke really bad, Duke will look back and know that it didn’t do all it could to win that game and that has to stick with you, NEXT PLAY or not. It is not about hatred for Clemson but hatred for the way Duke played at Clemson. Duke was out-toughed, something that has happened too often this year. Duke will need to be strong with the ball when driving to the basket; they will need to be strong of body when defending and boxing out. They will need to exorcise the demons of losses that could have easily been wins and take this game from the Tigers. It is not only Duke Nation watching but the committee as well.