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ACC Opponent Preview: Clemson

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The Jackets look to improve to 3-1 in ACC with a win over one team we certainly can’t chant “just like football” at.

NCAA Basketball: Virginia at Clemson Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

With three conference games wrapped up, Georgia Tech is sitting nicely at 2-1 with its sole ACC loss coming by 3 points versus a top-10 team. That’s some solid momentum, but a victory on Wednesday night against Clemson may prove paramount as the Jackets prepare to hit the toughest part of the schedule.

Players to Watch For

G Marcquise Reed (Sr.)

Reed is likely the difference between a decent and bad Clemson team. The Tigers current sit at 10-6 on the year, in large part thanks to the senior guard’s team-leading 18.9 points per game — good for 4th in the ACC. Though Reed is an adequate three-point shooter at 30% for the season, his real game is off-the-dribble scoring a-la Marcus Georges-Hunt or someone of that nature.

F Elijah Thomas (Sr.)

Thomas is force inside for the Tigers, averaging 13.2 points, 7.6 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks per game despite averaging just 24.6 minutes. His .650 mark from the floor ranks fourth in the conference, reinforcing the need to keep the ball out of his hands in the low post while he’s on the court. A transfer from Texas A&M, Thomas is likely to be a problem for the Jackets if the frontcourt can’t stay out of foul trouble.

G Shelton Mitchell (Sr.)

You just hate to see a team whose top three players are seniors start of 10-6, but here we are. Mitchell is averaging 12.6 points and 2.9 assists for Clemson in his final collegiate season — strong numbers for sure, but not a huge step up from where he was as a junior. He is not a strong three-point shooter but has plenty of other weapons that make him a dangerous player. A breakout game from Mitchell could be key if Clemson hopes to escape an 0-4 start to ACC play.

The Rest of the Rotation

F Aamir Simms (So.)

One of few underclassmen who contribute meaningful minutes to the Tigers, Simms puts in 9 points and 4.8 rebounds per game. Like Tech, Clemson tends to be strained for frontcourt depth. Simms is a critical part of any big lineup they decide to roll with, which probably explains why all three of their forwards (Simms, Thomas, and David Skara) all average 30 minutes or fewer per game.

F David Skara (Sr.)

Have you ever noticed that the vast majority of ACC teams have a token giant Eastern European dude? Skara fills that role for Clemson, hailing from Croatia and measuring in at 6-foot-8, 213 pounds. He’s statistically quieter than the previous two big men but plays a bit more at 30.1 minutes per game and has range that neither Simms nor Thomas can boast, shooting north of 40% from three this season.

G Clyde Trapp (So.)

Trapp averages 6.5 points in 23.9 minutes per game. He is a solid role player for the Tigers behind their two lead guards. Marcquise Reed and Shelton Mitchell.

G John Newman III (Fr.)

A 6-foot-5 shooting guard who came to Clemson as a part of the team’s most recent recruiting class, Newman is one of relatively few young Tigers who will have an impact beyond this season. Though he’s averaged just 2.4 points per game while playing sparingly, he has the tools to be a successful ACC player.