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What UVA Basketball fans need to know about #12 Clemson

clemson aamir simms
Aamir Simms defends N.C. State’s D.J. Funderburk in the Tigers’ Jan. 5 win. Photo courtesy Atlantic Coast Conference.

Clemson got basically no love from the writer types, like me, in the preseason ACC voting. We had the Tigers 10th in the conference, after a couple of down years for Brad Brownell’s group.

Brownell seemed to have had that breakthrough season back in 2017-2018, going 25-10 and getting Clemson to the Sweet 16.

The followup was an NIT appearance in 2019, and a 16-15 finish in 2020 – it was the Tigers that were on the floor warming up with Florida State when the ACC Tournament got scuttled before our eyes.

Coming into 2020-2021, there wasn’t all that much to be excited about, other than 6’8” senior Aamir Simms, who I’ve always loved and think is going to be a guy at the next level.

What Brownell has been able to do, to this point, is build strength in numbers.

He’ll go 10 deep, and the effect is Tigers coming at you in waves.

COVID pause

Everybody’s had a COVID pause, it seems. Virginia catches Clemson coming off its COVID pause, which began last Friday and forced the Tigers to miss games with North Carolina and Syracuse.

Meaning their last game was back on Jan. 5, a 74-70 win at N.C. State.

Scanning the news outlets that cover Clemson basketball, they’re still more interested in Clemson football, whose season ended a couple of weeks ago, so, I’m not getting much in terms of how the pause impacted the program.

I know from covering UVA through its two COVID pauses that they’re generally pretty severe from an athletics standpoint.

The UVA kids told us after the first one that they were only able to get individual time for conditioning and shooting.

Word is, from Clemson Twitter, that the team had its first-pause practice on Wednesday.

Breakdown

Nobody averages more than 27.8 minutes per game, so the counting numbers won’t jump out at you.

Simms (12.6 ppg, 5.8 rebs/g, 2.4 assists/g, 56.1% FG, 35.0% 3FG) is a tough matchup. At 6’8”, 245, he’s a beast in the lane, particularly on offensive stickbacks (he has a team-leading 10, per Synergy Sports) in addition to being a threat on the perimeter.

5’10” sophomore point guard Nick Honor is the other double-digit scorer (10.7 ppg, 45.8% FG, 44.2% 3FG). Honor had a game-high 21 points on 8-of-11 shooting, including 5-of-6 from three, in the win over State last week.

Honor is more a concern on the perimeter than in the lane – just 16.9 percent of his field goal attempts have been at the rim, per Hoop-Math.com.

Backcourt-mate Al-Amir Dawes (9.7 ppg, 39.5% FG, 32.7% 3FG), a 6’2” sophomore, is the guy who gets the most floor minutes (27.8), because of his ability to play either the 1 or 2.

6’4” senior Clyde Trapp (7.3 ppg, 5.1 rebs/g, 40.0% FG, 31.8% 3FG) is the team’s second-leading rebounder, at 6’4” – tough kid.

These are the guys you watch for on the offensive end.

They’re not a great three-point shooting team – 33.9 percent, middle of the pack, 168th, nationally.

From Synergy, they’re good on post cuts – 24-of-40, 60 percent on the season, led by Simms (6-of-8, 75 percent), offensive rebounds, as mentioned (23-of-37, 62.2 percent, led by Simms, who is 10-of-11 on stickbacks).

They’re also, oddly, for a team that is 297th nationally in tempo, per KenPom.com, good at finishing in transition – 48-of-92 (52.2 percent).

Watch out for Honor on the secondary break – he’s 15-of-23 in transition, 11 of the makes threes, scoring 1.577 points per possession on transition buckets, per Synergy.

The strength of this team is on defense. Clemson is ranked first nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency, per KenPom, giving up .868 points per possession.

All 15 players on the roster – including the garbage-time guys – have defensive ratings below 100, per Sports-Reference.com.

At a glance

  • Offense: Clemson 107.7 (72), Virginia 111.8 (33)
  • Defense: Clemson 86.8 (1), Virginia 90.6 (13)
  • Tempo: Clemson 66.4 (297), Virginia 59.3 (357)

Efficiency data from KenPom.com

Details

#18 Virginia (8-2, 4-0 ACC) at #12 Clemson (9-1, 3-1 ACC)

  • ESPN BPI: Virginia +1.7, 57.7% win probability
  • KenPom: Clemson 58-56, 57% win probability
  • BartTorvik: Clemson 56-54, 56% win probability

Story by Chris Graham


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