Preview & Prediction: By Blake Hofstad
In the final game of the year for both teams, #19 Clemson (9-6, 23-6) travels to Winston-Salem to square off with #10 Wake Forest (10-5, 23-5). These squads are locks for the NCAA Tournament, so this will just be a battle for seeding and pride. Clemson is looking for another marquee road win to complement its early season triumph over Illinois. Wake has cruised at home so far this year, dropping only one game at Lawrence Joel Coliseum all year. The Tigers are led by undersized big man Trevor Booker and strong guard KC Rivers. Do it all guard Jeff Teague heads the charge for Wake Forest. These guys are among the best in the ACC, and the winner of this game will get big performances from its stars.
The Tigers’ Booker is one of the more intriguing players in the country. Standing only 6-7, it is easy to think he might struggle to snag rebounds in a conference chock full of height. That couldn’t be further from the truth, as he leads the ACC in rebounding and is second in blocks. Although Booker doesn’t rely on it, he can step out and hit the three. KC Rivers is a versatile player. At 6-5, he is tall enough to create matchup havoc rebounding over smaller defenders and blowing by slower big men. That’s why he is second on the team in rebounding at 6.2 a game, but also shoots 46% from the field. Terrence Oglesby is a spot up jump shooter. He converts 40% of his treys, the shot that constitutes nearly 70% of his offense. However, he’s a crucial part of the Clemson offense, and can get hot in a hurry. He’s a streaky shooter, so when he’s on, the Tigers are very tough to beat. Point guard Demontez Stitt dishes out 3.8 assists a game, and runs the offense well. He’s a very consistent guy, rarely having an extremely poor night. In the beginning of the year Stitt was a turnover machine, a problem he has gradually subdued as the season has progressed. Raymond Sykes joins Booker in the front court, and he dumps in 57% of his shots and is third on the team in rebounding. Sykes is another reliable performer, although he was held scoreless in the close loss to Virginia Tech. He will be a bit of an X-Factor in this game, as Wake Forest is among the nation’s leading rebounding teams. Booker and Rivers will get rebounds, Sykes will need to step up and be the third guy on the glass for Clemson to win the rebounding battle. The Tigers go nine deep, with David Potter, Jerai Grant, Andre Young and Tanner Smith all contributing solid minutes off the bench. At 6-6, Potter is a versatile scorer off the bench, capable of shooting the three and doing damage inside. Grant is strictly a low post scorer; he shoots a tremendous 68% from the field. Andre Young and Tanner Smith provide some good shooters from the pine.
Wake Forest is one of the best rebounding teams in the country. They are led by the frontcourt trio of James Johnson, Al-Farouq Aminu and Chas McFarland in this facet of the game, who combine for around half of Wake Forest’s rebounds. Johnson and Aminu are extremely versatile big guys. Both can put the ball on the floor adeptly, and both pull down about 8 rebounds a game. McFarland’s averages are worse than the aforementioned forwards, but he can go off. He was vital in the North Carolina game. Guard Jeff Teague is in the running for an All-America position, and for good reason. He is an extremely accurate shooter, can score from anywhere on the court with ease and has a killer instinct which allows him to take over at the end of close ball games. LD Williams, the final Demon Deacon starter, has had a disappointing year of sorts, but he continues to be a good scoring option, although his game now extends little beyond that on the offensive end. Wake Forest’s strength lies in its ability to bring players off the bench, starting with backup point guard Ishmael Smith, who leads the team in assist/turnover ratio and gets a lot of minutes. Harvey Hale is almost exclusively a three point shooter. Big men Tony Woods and David Weaver will be utilized to counter Clemson’s deep frontcourt. Luckily for the Deacons, they are one of the rare teams who can match the Tigers player for player in terms of forwards.
Wake Forest is too tough at home for Clemson to knock off. In order for Clemson to beat the Demon Deacons, a feat they were unable to achieve on their home court, they need to win both the three point and rebounding battles. That is unlikely to happen.
Winner: Wake Forest Margin: 6-10 points
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About Blake Hofstad
An avid sports fan, you can nearly always find Blake Hofstad playing, watching, writing or just talking sports. His favorite team is the Wisconsin Badgers, and he is a huge Big Ten and Missouri Valley fan. The two things he hates about college basketball are Duke and the love Duke gets from most media members. You can find more of Blake's work on Onlinesportsfanatic.com.