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Countdown to Tipoff: Preview of Clemson and Miami

22 days until Georgia Tech basketball is back. Today we preview 2 beatable ACC teams: Clemson and Miami.

Clemson v Kansas

Clemson Tigers

2018-2019 Season Recap

Fresh off a 6-year contract extension and Clemson’s first NCAA tournament appearance since 2011, head coach Brad Brownell’s squad had high expectations. The Tigers returned 4 of their top 6 scorers and expected to make consecutive trips to March Madness. As has been the case many times during Brownell’s 9-year tenure, Clemson underperformed. The season essentially started in April 2018 as they were seemingly the odds on favorite to land high school sensation Zion Williamson. However, Zion picked Duke after Coach K went to Zion’s house and begged on hands and knees with some financial incentive to play for Coach K. The Tigers finished the season 20-14 but without a NCAA tournament appearance. Instead, they were knocked out in the second round of the NIT by Wichita St 63-55.

Roster Construction

Who’s Gone?

As highlighted in red above, Clemson loses 4 of their top 5 scorers, including the only double digit scorers from last year (Marcquise Reed, Elijah Thomas, and Shelton Mitchell). The Tigers return just 36% of their minutes played and 26% of their scoring. Reed and Thomas were far and away Clemson’s best players last year. Reed averaged 19.4 points and 5.5 rebounds, while leading the team in assists and steals. Meanwhile, Thomas was a defensive menace recording 74 blocked shots and 26 steals, and boasting a double digit box score plus/minus (10.6).

Who’s Coming In?

NCAA Basketball: SEC Conference Tournament-Kentucky vs Alabama
Alabama transfer Tevin Mack looks to lead the Tigers on the offensive and defensive end this year
Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

From the high school ranks, the Tigers bring in 2 consensus top-150 guards in Chase Hunter and Al-Amir Dawes. Both Hunter and Dawes figure to factor into the rotation as freshman given the loss Reed and Mitchell at guard. Clemson also brings in 2 high profile transfer wings in Tevin Mack and Khavon Moore. Mack has bounced around as Clemson will become the 3rd school he will play for in 4 years. In the 2016-17 season, Mack was a huge factor for the Texas Longhorns before getting suspended for violation of team rules. Last year Mack suited up for Alabama, but did not have as profound of an effect as many had hoped (9 points and 3.3 rebounds). Texas Tech transfer Khavon Moore missed the first half of the season due to a broken leg, and logged just 2 minutes in a January matchup against Iowa St. Texas Tech announced in February he would not play the rest of the season despite Khavon saying he was 100% healthy. Clemson is seeking a waiver for immediate eligibility but has yet to receive word from the NCAA.

Key Players

This figures to be a rebuilding year for the Tigers. Look for Tevin Mack to lead the way from a scoring standpoint. Junior forward Aamir Sims will need to build on his output of 8.1 points and 4.6 rebounds last year. Sims has the making of a star, but has struggled with consistency. Late in non-conference play last year Sims had a 3-game stretch of 23, 9, and 15 points (56% shooting) followed by a 3-game stretch of 5, 3, and 2 points (19% shooting). With Clyde Trapp likely out for the season with a torn ACL, look for freshman Al-Amir Dawes to play a big factor in Clemson’s rotation, potentially leading the Tigers in assists.

Keys to Victory for Tech

NCAA Basketball: Georgia Tech at N.C. State Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports
  • Attack Clemson bigs. Trey Jemison will likely get the start for the Tigers at center, but the sophomore only received 3.6 minutes per game last season. Behind him? Division III graduate transfer Paul Grinde. The Jackets should look attack Clemson’s biggest uncertainty on the drive, in the post, and on the glass.
  • Make Clemson shoot 3s. Last season the Tigers shot below 33% from 3, which was good for 257th in the country. Their returning players were even worse, shooting below 31% from distance. In addition, neither Tevin Mack (33%) or freshman Al-Amir Dawes (31%) are strong shooters from range.
  • Apply heavy ball pressure. Clemson only has 1 active player on the roster who averaged more than 15 minutes per game and multiple freshman ball handlers are expected to factor into the rotation. Georgia Tech should look to pressure Clemson’s inexperienced players to force turnovers and create easy transition buckets.

Miami Hurricanes

NCAA Basketball: Miami-Florida at Wake Forest Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

2018-2019 Season Recap

Miami had a 3 year NCAA tournament streak snapped last season after a disappointing 14-18 overall finish and 5-13 in the ACC. This marked head coach Jim Larranaga’s first losing since 1997-98 and Miami’s worst ACC finish (T11) since 2009-10. Despite having a veteran starting 5, Miami lacked any depth at all. Due to injuries and transfers being ineligible, Miami played much of the season with only 7 scholarship players. The cloud of potential NCAA sanctions due to the Adidas basketball scandal also prevented Miami from signing any high school recruits in 2018. One of the few bright spots for the Canes was the development of sophomore guard Chris Lykes. Lykes finished the season leading the team in points (16.2) and assists (3.2).

Roster Construction

Who’s Gone?

The Canes lose 3 double-digit scorers from last season that accounted for almost 50% of their scoring: Anthony Lawrence (12.6), Zach Johnson (11.8), and Ebuka Izundu (10.9). Of the trio, Izundu will be the most sorely missed. He led the team in rebounds (8.3), win shares (4.3), and box score plus/minus (8.4). Izundu’s impact was also seen on the defensive end as he was Miami’s best interior defender and led the team in blocked shots (39).

Who’s Coming In?

There will be lots of new faces seeing the floor for the Hurricanes this season, with as many as 5 making an impact. From the high school ranks, Miami brings in 3 recruits: Harlond Beverly, Isaiah Wong, and Anthony Walker. Both Beverly and Wong are consensus 4* combo guards with versatility. Their ability to get to the rim at will and make the 3-point shot will allow them to factor into the rotation as freshman. From the transfer market, the Canes signed big man Nysier Brooks and forward Keith Stone. Stone is recovering from an ACL injury and won’t likely be available until the start of ACC play. However, his return would give Miami more floor spacing due to his 3-point shot (39% at Florida). Unfortunately, Brooks will have to sit out the 2019-20 season due to transfer rules before playing his final year of eligibility.

Key Players

NCAA Basketball: Iowa State at Oklahoma
Oklahoma transfer Kameron McGusty looks to be a key contributor for the Hurricanes
Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Miami’s scoring attack will be headed by Chris Lykes, Dejan Vasiljevic, and Kameron McGusty. Lykes will look to lead the Canes in scoring for the second consecutive season as Miami’s most potent offensive player. The junior 5’7 point guard should see benefits from the NCAA moving the 3-point line back 1’3 for the 2019-20 season. Lykes isn’t a strong 3-point shooter, but the increased space should make it easier to get to the basket and find open teammates camped out beyond the arc. Senior guard Vasiljevic was the leading 3-point shooter last season, making 2.5 per game at a 37% clip. Finally, Oklahoma transfer McGusty will be eligible this season after sitting out in 2018-19. Like Vasiljevic, McGusty is a strong 3-point shooter, who will give Lykes more space to operate in the midrange and on the drive.

Keys to Victory for Tech

  • Rebounding. The Canes struggled in this area last season - finishing 258th in the country. Now without their top 2 rebounders, Miami figures to be worse in this department. They will rely heavily on 211 pound sophomore Deng Gak, who is still very raw and can be pushed around by 243 pound James Banks. Tech should look to exploit this on both the offensive and defensive end.
  • Play sound transition defense. With Lykes’s electric speed and 3-point shooters around him, Miami will look to play in transition to maximize his playmaking ability and get easy buckets. The Jackets should look to get back in transition and force the Canes into half-court sets. Miami only had 413 assists last year (235th in the country).

Poll

Tech will play a home and home with Clemson and at home vs Miami. How will Tech fair in these games?

This poll is closed

  • 9%
    3-0
    (1 vote)
  • 45%
    2-1
    (5 votes)
  • 27%
    1-2
    (3 votes)
  • 18%
    0-3
    (2 votes)
11 votes total Vote Now