After a statement win over Louisville Wednesday, Notre Dame looks to continue their hot play an avoid a letdown performance as they host Clemson Saturday afternoon at Purcell Pavilion.
Clemson flirted with an NCAA Tournament a year ago before falling off down the stretch, but the Tigers are one of the most improved teams in the ACC and have the potential to earn a bid this season.
A fair criticism of the ACC in recent years was that it was clearly the best conference in the country, but the bottom of the conference was putrid – that is not the case this season. Traditional doormats like Boston College, Wake Forest, Georgia Tech, and Clemson have improved greatly and most have already notched a signature win this season.
Clemson demonstrated their improvements in their last game as they pushed North Carolina to the limits and, frankly, blew the game by missing a free throw with five seconds remaining in regulation before losing in overtime.
The Irish have yet to lose to the Tigers since joining the ACC, but every contest has been tight.
Three years ago, the last time Clemson visited South Bend, the Irish survived a double overtime tilt vs. the Tigers.
Two years ago, Jerian Grant hit timely shot after timely shot in the last two minutes to help ND escape with a road win.
Last year’s game parallels with this year’s contest nicely. Last year, the Irish traveled to Clemson after their upset of No. 2 North Carolina. The Irish were able to avoid the road upset and keep their momentum going during a critical stretch of the season.
This year’s matchup also sees the Irish coming off a win over a top ten team, but this time they host the Tigers and that will be the difference in the game.
Clemson’s Little John Coliseum is one of the most under appreciated home court advantages in the country. Clemson makes no claim to be a basketball school, but have a great home atmosphere which has led to many upsets through the years.
On the road? Not as much.
Historically, Clemson is a far better home team than on the road. They are 11-3 to date, but their best win was over South Carolina when they Gamecocks were without their best player.
This year, the Tigers boast one of the best scorers in the ACC with Jerome Blossomgame and their performance against UNC proves that they can play with anyone in the country.
Blossomgame is seventh in the ACC in scoring and he will get his numbers, but does Clemson have a viable second and third offensive threat? I don’t believe so.
For the Irish, a good start is critical to avoid any letdown potential. If they come out flat and let Clemson hang around, Notre Dame will have their hands full, but I don’t see that happening.
The Irish offense will have a lot more room to navigate compared to the length of Louisville and expect V.J. Beachem to break out of his slump as the senior had 15 points in last season’s matchup vs. Clemson.
Farrell and Vasturia will continue their consistent play and Bonzie Colson will continue to put together an all-conference resume.
Colson as a 6’5″ power forward has averaged 18.9 points and 12.3 rebounds per game in seven games against major conference opponents this year.
Although the Irish and their players will continue to fight an uphill battle for respect in the Tobacco Road-centric ACC (as witnessed by Jahlil Okafor winning ACC Player of the Year over Jerian Grant two years ago), Colson has to be one on the early candidates for ACC Player of the Year.
Irish and Tigers will go back and forth in the first half, but Notre Dame’s superior offensive efficiency will help the Irish pull away in the second half.