Game Preview: Clemson

Florida State is back in action Saturday afternoon, getting their second matchup with Clemson in the season, this time at home.

The first game went Clemson’s way after a dominant performance from the free throw line. Since then, both teams have had long pauses due to COVID-19 protocols, and neither team looks the same. Florida State has won 3 straight following their pause, dominating two of them and winning by an average of 17 PPG in those games. Clemson beat Miami and NC State before going on their COVID pause, and has come back losing two straight getting crushed in the UVA game 85-50 and handled by Georgia Tech 83-65.

Clemson’s offense has struggled while Florida State’s has excelled, and FSU should come in extra motivated following that late December loss. Will it be enough to come away with their 21st straight ACC Home win?

This game will be at 3pm on ABC, live from the Donald L Tucker Center.

#20 Clemson Tigers (9-3, 3-3) Breakdown

Any time we rematch with a team, I’ll link the first preview for player breakdowns, style of play, etc., and really just focus on what happened in the first matchup. So click HERE to link back to the first preview between these two. I will update the player and team stats at the bottom of the breakdown.

Why did Clemson beat Florida State in the first game?

Free throws, rebounds, and turnovers. Clemson didn’t do anything different that made it tough for them to guard, no special sets, no tricky defense, they just got to the free throw line a whopping 33 times compared to Florida State’s 9. Clemson crashed the offensive glass hard, finishing with 19 offensive rebounds, while also winning the rebound battle 49-35. While both teams are good at forcing turnovers, Clemson was better at 17-12. FSU actually out-shot Clemson from the floor 41.9% to 36.5%, but couldn’t overcome everything else, plus a late game stretch from Clemson where it seemed they couldn’t miss a shot.

FSU actually led with 10:39 remaining, and tied it up again with 7:41 left before Clemson closed out the game with a 23-13 stretch, including an 11-6 run in the final 3:55. Nick Honor was hitting big shots, Al-Amir Dawes finally started hitting shots down the stretch, and it was just too much to overcome for FSU.

Neither team could hit a shot really, especially from 3. They both took more 3s than usual, yet each team shot around 29% from 3, insisting on settling for 3s instead of creating open looks.

Clemson has really struggled since their COVID pause. They entered their pause as the best defensive team in the country, yet have allowed 80+ points to Virginia and Georgia Tech since returning, and now sit at 20th in defensive efficiency. It’s been a very simple reason for this decline: 3-point defense. Virginia shot 15/27 (55.6%) from 3 and Georgia Tech shot 16/26 (61.5%) from 3. Florida State won’t need to shoot that many or that well, expecting a team to shoot 50%+ from 3 is an unrealistic expectation, but as long as FSU is taking smart shots, they’ll be able to create those open looks from 3.

It isn’t just these two games either for Clemson on the poor 3-point defense, it’s been the whole season. Clemson is bottom 25% nationally at .955 PPP allowed on spot-up shots. Teams are just shooting 40.9% on these chances against them, but then you look at the adjusted FG% of 55.8%, which awards 3s at a higher percentage, and you realize that teams are able to get and hit open 3s at a consistent rate.

Team Stats PPG/RPG (ORBs/DRBs)/APG/SPG/BPG/ToPG/FPG          FG%/3PT%/FT%

Clemson Produces: 66.5/32.8 (9.4/23.4)/12.8/7.3/2.9/13.2/16.8          43.2/33.9/73.0

Clemson Allows: 62.0/32.7 (8.8/23.9)/11.8/6.8/3.2/16.4/16.3          42.6/36.0/66.1

Player Stats

#25 Aamir Simms 12.3/5.7/2.4/1.2/0.8/2.5/3.1                53.8/29.2/84.8

#4 Nick Honor 10.3/1.2/2.4/1.6/0.0/1.2/1.5                      46.3/44.1/60.0

#2 Al-Amir Dawes 8.3/2.3/2.1/0.9/0.3/1.6/1.4                 37.2/31.6/75.0

#0 Clyde Trapp 7.8/5.3/1.8/0.8/1.6/1.4                              43.6/38.5/60.0

#24 PJ Hall 5.1/2.5/0.0/0.4/0.1/0.5/1.5                             58.5/16.7/75.0

#15 John Newman III 4.9/2.7/1.4/0.8/0.2/1.4/2.0          36.1/30.0/100.0

#1 Jonathan Baehre 4.8/3.9/1.3/0.7/0.7/0.9/1.8             39.3/31.3/69.2

#12 Alex Hemenway 4.4/1.3/0.3/0.4/0.1/0.8/1.1             45.9/39.3/100.0

Florida State Seminoles (8-2, 4-1) Breakdown

I’m curious to see what Florida State decides to do with Scottie Barnes. He looked healthy Monday night with very few limitations, but the offense has looked much better when he can just focus on scoring and acting as a secondary ball-handler and creator. He’s still a gifted playmaker at his size, and I think this team’s highest ceiling is with Barnes at the point guard, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see a lot of lineups with RayQuan Evans and Barnes on the floor at the same time, of if Barnes came off of the bench more to feast on second groups.

Here is a look at two different shot charts from Florida State:

First, a short lesson on how to read it. Bigger dots mean more shots ranging from 1 shot to 5 shots, and if it’s anything more it’ll show a number. The darker the circle, the more efficient a team is from that spot.

Shot chart #1 is games 1-7 for Florida State, while the second chart is games 8-10. I was looking for a pattern to see what has caused this offensive surge these last few games, and I came up with a couple of things.

Number 1: Looks at the Rim. Florida State is attacking the rim with an extreme relentlessness, getting 65 looks at the rim or right next to it just 3 games. In those first 7 games, Florida State’s looks at the rim aren’t all that much more than that. They’ve almost completely wiped out the looks from 7-18 feet, and is a much more modern looking shot chart. FSU has been much more physical, and has gotten to the rim even through contact.

Number 2: Lack of variance from 3. This may seem like a hinderance, but it actually helps the offense. Guys know where their teammates are supposed to be, they’re shooting from areas they’re more comfortable in, and are getting more in rhythm shots. Getting to the rim opens up so much for the rest of the offense, including getting these in rhythm 3s.

Number 3: Spacing. It’s tough to tell from just a shot chart and a bunch of dots, but the lack of shots in the gray area of 3-point range (the area between the corner and the wing) is telling. There were a few times in the first set of games where guys were right on top of each other, then just pitching it to the guy right next to him. In general, Florida State takes very few mid-range shots. They still practice and attempt the shot-fake, one dribble pull-up jumpers, but they’re no as prevelant.

Injury Report

Anthony Polite will be a game-time decision with a shoulder injury that caused him to miss the Louisville game. I’m of the opinion he’ll attempt to play, and FSU will need him with his shooting.

Projected Starters

Florida State

G: RayQuan Evans

G: MJ Walker

G: Anthony Polite

F: RaiQuan Gray

C: Balsa Koprivica


G: Clyde Trapp

G: Al-Amir Dawes

G: John Newman III

F: Jonathan Baehre

F: Aamir Simms

Keys to the Game

Control the Glass

Florida State proved against UNC that they can be a solid rebounding team when necessary. Clemson isn’t even that good of a rebounding team, but last time out, Clemson dominated Florida State on the boards. Guys are going to have to lock in and match up when a shot goes up. Limit Clemson to less than 10 offensive rebounds, and Clemson won’t have any ways to score.

On the other end, Florida State has a size advantage against everyone they play, they need to take advantage of it and get a couple of extra possessions.

Free Throws and Fouls

Really the only reason Clemson beat Florida State in the first matchup was they went to the free throw line 33 times, compared to just 9 for the Seminoles; fouls were a big discrepancy as well going 24-14 in Clemson’s favor. These are two physical teams that play hard defense, and the foul difference should’ve never been that big in the first place, but there needs to be extra attention on playing smart and not drawing dumb fouls.

Florida State gave a lot of fouls from chasing long rebounds, getting over the backs, reaching in, etc. Limit those and just focus on good defense, and this’ll be a much different game.

Smart 3s

In the first game, FSU took 32 3s, and made just 9 of them. For them to have an efficient offensive game again, they’re going to have to limit the looks where they’re just settling for 3. Clemson is bottom 25% on spot-up shot defense, so as long as FSU is driving and kicking to get those looks, it’s fine. Just no more of the 3s early in the shot clock against a Clemson team like this.

In FSU’s 3 wins since the COVID pause, this is the amount of 3s they’ve taken: 18, 16, 21. They’ve been super efficient on these too, shooting 66.7%, 50%, and 42.9% on those chances. When the offense is driving to the rim, forcing the defense to suck in, and then kick out for 3, it creates much better looks.

Game Prediction

Florida State opened as a 6.5-point favorite (has already moved to 7.5) with an over/under of 136.5.

I really, really like the ‘Noles in this game. I think their offensive efficiency is something that will be tough to slow down, and they’ve started to figure things out in terms of taking smarter shots and finding ways to get downhill. Clemson is a great litmus test for this offense though. They’ll surely be limited more than they’re used to, but this will be a hungry team, ready to get revenge from the late December loss.

Give me Florida State 71-61.

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