When and Where: Littlejohn Coliseum, Clemson, S.C. | 7:00
Where to Watch: ESPNU
Line: Vegas: Clemson -8.5 KenPom: Clemson by 8, 23% chance of Maryland victory
- Milton Jennings. Clemson's starting power forward and easily one of their most influential players, Jennings was suspended for the past few games for academic reasons. He'll be back today, though, with Brad Brownell deciding to bring him back - he won't start, but I'd guess he'd get starter minutes.
- Sean Mosley. Sugar Sean is sitting on 999 points. If he can get a bucket tonight, he'll be the 50th Maryland player to reach 1,000 career points. Here's hoping he gets it.
- Road win? Bueller? Mark Turgeon is still yet to win a true road game in his tenure in College Park. The Terrapins have had some opportunities - the overtime against Miami stands out, and the N.C. State game in Raleigh was a chance as well. But this is by far their most winnable road game yet, and probably their second-best opportunity of the season (Georgia Tech will likely be the best shot).
- Yes, jokes about the Eastern Bloc are welcome. With a hat tip to Brendan Darr for coming up with the name originally, it'll be that much more relevant tonight when 7-1 Alex Len matches up with Clemson's 7-2 Romanian senior Catalin Baciu. It's all very funny.
The Opponent (An Overview): Clemson's in their second year under Brad Brownell, and common consensus is that this should probably be their year; after this season, they lose their two best players and star guards, which should make next season pretty tough. They've struggled, though, without Demontez Stitt and Jerai Grant, going 11-11 and 3-5 in the ACC. They have one of the conference's least-impressive out-of-conference resumés, but have been quietly very good in ACC play: they blasted Florida State, got easy wins against Wake Forest and Georgia Tech at home, and haven't lost a game by more than 6 points. They play suffocating man-to-man defense, perhaps a bit overshadowed by Florida State but otherwise perhaps the best in the conference, but don't have a ton of offensive firepower. They have a particularly slow tempo - only Virginia has fewer possessions per game in the ACC. That's a bit strange, as they are a deep team, with three young guards off the bench and three viable big men, as well.
Expected Starting Fives:
|Pe’Shon Howard (So., 6-3)||Andre Young (Sr., 5-9)|
|Terrell Stoglin (So., 6-0)||Tanner Smith (Sr., 6-5)|
|Sean Mosley (Sr., 6-4)||K.J. McDaniels (Fr., 6-5)|
|James Padgett (Jr., 6-8)||Bryan Narcisse (Sr., 6-6)|
|Alex Len (Fr., 7-1)||Devin Booker (Jr., 6-8)|
I'm taking a gamble by taking out Ashton Pankey in favor of Alex Len, but let's face it: after his performance against UNC, he deserves it. The question will be whether or not Turgeon decides to keep him on the bench to start, in an effort to keep things easy for him and go with what's working, and that's an option, but he's back to being a de facto starter. On Clemson's side, Milton Jennings will likely more or less play starter minutes in place of Narcisse, but he likely won't be on the floor at tip. Good news: Stoglin has someone to guard! Andre Young is a lightning bug and will challenge Stogs' lateral quickness, but you can't give up that size advantage, can you? Bigger question is who Pe'Shon guards: Smith, essentially Clemson's point guard, or the less-dangerous McDaniels with Mose on Smith? I prefer the latter.
Is it just me, or do the numbers say "Maryland win"? I think the numbers say "Maryland win." Obviously have to play to them, especially tough to do on the road and against a team that prides itself on defense, but that's a darn encouraging chart.
Matchup to Watch: Two different ways this could've gone. I heavily, heavily considered making this Alex Len vs. Devin Booker; the younger brother of Trevor is quietly a very good player for Clemson, but Len has the size and athleticism advantage, which made for a good battle. Ultimately, though, that lost out to Terrell Stoglin vs. Andre Young. Both the shortest player on the team, both undersized 2-guards at heart, and both their team's most important player. They'll likely match up with one another, and it has the potential to be a pretty serious battle.
Prediction: Maryland's quietly and slowly been making progress as a team, with the second half of the Miami game leading into a fantastic showing against North Carolina. They weren't good enough to win either game, but you have to wonder if something didn't click somewhere around Mark Turgeon's ejection. If it did, and if they can replicate their performance of the last 57 minutes or so of basketball, they win this one. I'm guessing (and hoping) that they do. Terps grit it out, 66-60.