clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Xavier v. Clemson: preview, matchups, keys to the game

These are two good, evenly matched teams on a neutral court. This game should be a taste of March in November.

NCAA Basketball: Georgia at Clemson
Find this man wherever he goes on the court.
Dawson Powers-USA TODAY Sports

Our guy Paul tweeted after the win over Missouri, "Burn the tape. On to Clemson." The less said about that game against Missouri, the better; that was a loss in every way except that Xavier outscored the Tigers. I will say that, with a 2-22 performance from beyond the arc and 13 missed free throws, Xavier gave fans plenty of reason to believe that a turnaround could be imminent.

No such plucking of the courage will be required for Clemson fans. They boat raced Davidson in the early game, carrying a 13-point lead at the half and cruising to an easy win. That, combined with their 10-point win over Georgia earlier in the year, puts Clemson at 2-0 and 19th in the KenPom rankings. The Tigers put five guys in double figures of scoring against Davidson and are riding high coming into the matchup with the Musketeers.

Team fingerprint:

Really good.

The offense loves to play really, really slowly, but the upshot to that is that they hardly turn the ball over at all. They rest comfortably inside the top 100 in EFG%, doing a little better from inside the arc than they do beyond it. They also make 81% of their free throws as a team, which would have been nice to see from Xavier earlier. Good shooting and great ball security combine to make a pretty dang efficient offense. One thing they don't do well is crash the glass, sitting at 211th in the nation in OReb% on the young season.

The rebounding woes extend to the defensive end, where their 58.8% DReb% is 311th in the country. That's the worst thing they do, though; they're solid at defending inside, rarely foul, and do a pretty good job of forcing turnovers. The numbers make it look like they concede the arc, but they just played Davidson, who will commit to launching threes even if you put all five defenders in three-point territory. Clemson has topped the defensive cherry by blocking 12.2% of their opponents' two-point shots, good for 99th in the country.


(Note: I couldn't find traditional stats that updated fast enough to reflect today's game, so I've gone with some advanced metrics instead. To interpret, just know that an ORtg of 102 or better is above average, a usage rate of above 20% reflects that the player uses more of his team's possessions than an average player would, and an average EFG% is 49.3%. Okay? Okay.)

Avry Holmes Point Guard Edmond Sumner
Senior Class Sophomore
6'2", 195 Measurements 6'6", 186
122.8/18.8/52.3 ORtg/Usage/EFG% 96.8/25.2/51.2
Holmes plays a ton of minutes for Clemson, basically spending the entire game on the floor. He's not a prolific scorer or distributor, but he doesn't turn the ball over and generally gets it to the guys who can score it. He's shooting 82% from the line, which is pretty keen.
Gabe DeVoe Shooting Guard JP Macura
Junior Class Junior
6'3", 210 Measurements 6'5", 203
133.2/18.9/72.5 ORtg/Usage/EFG% 117.4/22.3/41
DeVoe right now isn't unlike what JP was to Xavier last year. He's scoring really efficiently from all over but not really taking charge of games, likely because he's never been much of a scorer before. We'll spare you all the Bell Biv DeVoe jokes we could fill this space with and just let you rest assured that this game probably won't be decided by a big performance from DeVoe.
Jaron Blossomgame Small Forward Malcom Bernard
Senior Class Senior
6'7", 220 Measurements 6'6", 202
114.3/23.4/44.2 ORtg/Usage/EFG% 97.9/12.4/60.7
Blossomgame is an absolute monster. He gobbles down possessions while scoring efficiently at all three levels. He's a good but not great rebounder on both ends of the floor and a solid defender to boot. Clemson turns to Blossomgame when they need buckets, and he usually answers the bell.
Donte Grantham Power Forward Trevon Bluiett
Junior Class Junior
6'8", 215 Measurements 6'6", 215
106.2/16.8/47.6 ORtg/Usage/EFG% 105.7/25/45.5
Graham has a couple of inches on Bluiett, but he's not as much of an interior player as Tre is. More than half of his career field goal attempts have come from behind the arc, where he connects at a solid but unspectacular rate. He does well at defending without fouling; his length might give Xavier some issues.
Sidy Djitte Center Sean O'Mara
Senior Class Junior
6'10", 240 Measurements 6'10", 245
134.4/23.9/75 ORtg/Usage/EFG% 135.8/16/57.9
Just a couple of really husky lads going at it here. I think it's safe to ignore Djitte's usage rate; he's never been a go-to guy for Clemson. Both of these guys compete on the glass, draw a lot of fouls, and commit a lot of fouls. Djitte is probably a better defender; O'Mara is probably a better offensive player. Both guys are really large.


Guard Marcquise Reed is the first man off the bench for the Tigers. A Robert Morris transfer, he has hit the ground running this season. He’s 6’3”, 185, and is an unabashed scorer. He can hit from deep or by putting the ball on the deck.

And that’s pretty much it. Seven players have seen more than perfunctory minutes for Clemson this year, with seven-foot junior Legend Robertin getting occasional peeks at the floor. Like Xavier, Clemson is running thin right now.

Three questions:

-Who gets the whistle? Clemson has drawn 45 fouls on the young season, only 7 more than Xavier drew in the Buffalo game alone. The way the officiating has been going this year, it’s hard to say what, if anything, that means. With both teams really lacking quality depth right now, who has to go deep into the bench first is a huge factor.

-Can Xavier shoot themselves out of it? When Missouri went zone, Xavier looked baffled and just ineffectually chucked over the top to the tune of 2-22 from deep. According to Joe Danneman, Xavier didn’t score outside of five feet after the half and still won. If Clemson packs the paint, can Xavier’s shooters actually be makers to the tune of at least a double-digit success rate?

-What was that, Ed? Ed shot 7-19/0-5/4-11 and turned the ball over 4 times to just 1 assist against Missouri. I think the scouting report must have said Ed could beat his man off the bounce all day - which he could - but he wasn’t able to make it pay at the line or with distribution. I’m calling this a hiccup; he’ll be fine going forward.

Three keys:

-Control the glass. Clemson will gain ground in the freebie war by winning the battle for ball security. Xavier can get some of those possessions back on the glass. Clemson is not a very good rebounding team, and Xavier has been flying to the boards so far this year. If X can hold Clemson to one and done on defense and get some second chances on the other end, the Muskies can paper over a lot of the cracks in their current execution.

-Feed the post. Sean O’Mara and RaShid Gaston have the top two ORtgs on the team right now, and JP Macura is the only perimeter guy who is even close. When given the ball, both of Xavier’s primary big men have proven themselves worthy of that trust. For the love of God, please let them eat.

-Check shooters. Xavier has let teams take an appalling 44% of their shot attempts from deep this year; when you’re that permissive from behind the arc, even Frankie Hughes can occasionally drop 24 on you. Clemson doesn’t emphasize the three, but they have real ballplayers out there. If X stands and watches them launch 25 threes, the next stop is the consolation bracket.