Georgia Tech Basketball: ACC Tourney Q&A with Shakin' the Southland

Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

We caught up with Ryan Kantor over at Shakin' the Southland to preview today's ACC Tournament matchup between Clemson and Georgia Tech.

You can see my responses to Ryan's questions here.

FTRS: For a 19-win team that's over .500 in the ACC and 6th in the conference after the regular season, Clemson's sure not getting a lot of attention from the national media, and is hardly an afterthought to make the NCAA Tournament. What's the story this season on why this team isn't in line to play in the Big Dance?

STS: Clemson was picked to finish 14th in the ACC so we've far exceeded our own expectations. Only the coaches and players believed they would do as well as they've done (I predicted 4 fewer regular season wins). Clemson basketball never seems to get much media recognition, but it was great to see a little come our way when K.J. McDaniels was named the ACC's Defensive Player of the Year on top of being picked for the First Team All-ACC. Clemson is 53rd in KenPom and barring two wins in Greensboro does not belong in the NCAA tournament. They are haunted by silly losses at Auburn and Wake Forest as well as games they fumbled away in the closing seconds at Notre Dame and versus Pittsburgh. They're 53rd in KenPom which doesn't scream tournament team, but is a 71 spot improvement from last season and we expect more improvement next year.

FTRS: Junior Forward K.J. McDaniels was a first-team All-ACC player, and deservedly so. He's fifth in the conference in points per game, and the only one better than Daniel Miller in blocks per game. He's extremely tough to stop on either end of the floor. However, if I were going to do it on either end, how would I beat him? And do you expect him back for his senior year, or is he NBA-bound?

STS: What some teams have done is implement a defense you'd expect to see in under-10 rec league basketball such as the box-and-1 or triangle-and-2 zone approaches. McDaniels has developed a great mid-range game, but is only a .300 3-point shooter. The best way to slow him down is to force him to be a shooter. On occasion we have seen him settle. He is much better when he attacks the basket and takes jump shots in rhythm.

I do not think he should go to the NBA after this season. Brad Brownell does a great job with player development and McDaniels still has room to grow, namely with his shooting (slow release, low 3P%) and passing (low assist%). This year's NBA draft is particularly strong so it would make sense for him to come back, improve, and be a lottery pick next season. Of course, I'm not privy to his personal circumstances so it's hard to say with confidence that he will do that.

FTRS: Georgia Tech has lost 9 in a row to Clemson, including all 6 since Brian Gregory took over. Is there any reason that Clemson fans have to be worried about this game?

STS: Of course. I don't think we're immensely more talented than Georgia Tech and our recent games have been competitive. We're also much better at home and have lost 3 straight ACC tournament games.

FTRS: Brad Brownell is in his fourth year at Clemson, and it's gone well so far. He won an opening round game in the NCAA Tournament his first season, and has compiled a 70-56 record overall in his four seasons. Are Clemson fans happy with him, or irritated over the lack of tournament appearances?

STS: Early in the season fans were frustrated. Many would acknowledge that he was a good Xs and Os coach, but for various reasons it's taken him a while to get the recruiting groundwork laid and that's where fans doubted his abilities. To that end, some wondered if his low-tempo, defensive oriented philosophy was scaring recruits away.

Now, most are seeing Donte Grantham (4-star) and Gabe DeVoe as big gets on the recruiting trail for next season. They're seeing what happens when a team buys into his philosophy and enjoying rooting for this over-achieving group. I think with the way this team has played he's gotten a lot of goodwill among the fans he did not have at the start of the year and that's well deserved.

FTRS: What's your prediction for this game? Does Georgia Tech continue its roll, or does Clemson get a shot to upset Duke again?

STS: I don't think this is a gimme by any stretch of imagination. KenPom gives Clemson a 69% chance to win, which sounds about right to me. As long as we perform better than Boston College did on the glass, I think we can with this one to the tune of 60-55 or something in that ballpark. If Brian Gregory can make us beat them with jump shots, I'll start worrying.

Thanks to Ryan and the crew over at Shakin' the Southland for helping to put this together on such short notice! You can follow him on Twitter at @ryan_kantor. The game is tonight at 9pm EST on ESPN and ESPN3. Go Jackets!

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