by Paul Casey Gotham
Setting: The Demon Deacons pay a visit to Littlejohn Coliseum for a Top Ten matchup between undefeateds as #2 Wake Forest (15-0 / 2-0) takes on #10 Clemson (16-0 / 2-0) in an ACC battle.
Plots: On paper the teams boast similar resumes. Both average over 80 points per game. Wake Forest is 51.2% from the field including 34.1% from the arc and 69.9% from the line. Clemson finishes 48.9% from the field – 37.3% from long range and 67.8% from the charity stripe. The Deacs grab 45.7 rebounds per game and have a rebound margin of 7.9 (tied for 12th in the nation) while the Tigers grab 40.3. Clemson swipes 10 steals per game (10th in the nation); Wake Forest gets 9.3. Wake Forest blocks 5.9 shots per game; Clemson sends back 7.0 per game.
Sub-plots: In their triumph at Chestnut Hill on Wednesday 83-63, the Deacs proved their win over UNC was more than an upset. Those looking for Wake Forest to suffer from a hangover instead saw a focused club beat a Boston College Eagles squad that had already shown a penchant for the upset when they toppled the Heels 85-78.
Clemson is in search of a signature win to provide the substance to their record that will propel up the rankings. The Tigers have knocked off Temple, South Carolina, NC State, Miami, and Alabama, but none of these teams are ranked. A win today gives the Tigers resume fodder.
Flashback: Overtime has been needed to decide three of the last four meetings between these ACC rivals. The other game was decided by a deuce. Wake holds the all-time advantage 95-52.
Foreshadowing: Clemson travels to Winston-Salem for the final regular season game on March 8th.
Conflict: How do the Tigers simultaneously contain Jeff Teague and the front line of Wake Forest? Teague has shown he can be effective in transition and in the half-court set. WF has three guys 6’11” or bigger averaging more than 10:00 per game – David Weaver, Tony Woods, and Chas McFarland. How will 6’7″ Trevor Booker handle the Wake Forest size? Booker leads the Tigers with 15.4 ppg and 9.1 rpg. 6’5″ K.C. Rivers will need to provide support inside for Booker.
Clemson’s defense will give a variety of looks but their bread and butter is the 2-2-1 press. Sometimes they deny the inbound; other times they give the inbound and move quickly into traps. Considering Wake’s size the Tigers will want to avoid allowing them into a half-court set as much as possible.
Could the Tigers use their press in synch with the shot clock? Instead of looking for steals early will Clemson force the Deacs into rushing in the half-court set? This could be an effective tact early in the game. Rather than exposing themselves at the outset the Tigers could play a patient game that slows down the Deacs.
What will Clemson do on the offensive glass? When a shot goes up, will they search for Teague and deny the outlet? Or will they send four to the glass? Or will they drop off and play defense?
Climax: If Teague and Wake Forest establish their offense, it is over. Clemson needs to disrupt Wake’s rhythm. Terrence Oglesby who hits 41% from long range needs to get hot for the Tigers.
1st Team All-Casey
PG Jeff Teague Wake Forest
SG Kyle McAlarney Notre Dame
SF Dionte Christmas Temple
PF Blake Griffin Oklahoma
C Tyler Hansbrough UNC
2nd Team All-Casey
PG Stephen Curry Davidson
SG Jodie Meeks Kentucky
SF C.J. Anderson Xavier
PF Luke Harangody Notre Dame
C Chas McFarland Wake Forest