IOWA (4-0) USA CLEMSON (4-1)
DATE: November 25, 2022
TIME: 6:00 PM CT
LOCATION: Northwest Florida State College Arena, Niceville, FL
TV: CBS Sports Network
RADIO: Learfield Sports
STREAMING: CBS Sports Online
LINE: Iowa -8
KENPOM: Iowa -8 (Iowa 76% chance of winning)
While basking in the glow of a Big Ten West title, enjoy some early evening basketball as the Hawkeyes take on Clemson in the Semifinals of the Emerald Coast Classic. Tipoff is at 6:00 Central, so you might miss the first part as the football game wraps up. It’s okay, we won’t tell. The winner gets the winner of TCU-Cal (almost certainly TCU, as Cal is god-level terrible), which will be played on Saturday afternoon after this game.
Clemson is led by longtime head coach Brad Brownell, who was hired 26 days after Fran McCaffery was announced at Iowa. His results are Extreme Clemson: Three tournament appearances in twelve seasons, with one trip to the Sweet 16 in 2018. The Tigers have finished over .500 in all but one season, but within three games of .500 in six of them . It’s not much of a surprise that Brownell’s chair is running hot this season.
So far this season, Clemson has shipped four cupcakes by a double-digit margin, losing to rival South Carolina in a game where they posted a rotten 0.83 points per possession. South Carolina followed up that win with losses to Colorado State, Davidson and Furman. South Carolina is bad. You shouldn’t lose to South Carolina.
Brownell certainly has a signature style of play: offense runs at a medium pace, defense built to fill the court and extend opponent’s possession to the end of the shot clock. His good teams are built on defenses from around the world: the four times Clemson won 20 games under Brownell, their defense has been in the top 20 in efficiency. Every other season it was somewhere between 33 and 101. It is 69th so far this season. That should be nice for Iowa, especially considering that Clemson has struggled to defend the perimeter; opponents shoot 37.5% of three, and none of those opponents are currently in the Kenpom Top 125.
The big story for Clemson so far this season has been junior center PJ Hall (6’10”, 245) status. Hall was probably Clemson’s best player last season, but had foot surgery after the end of last season and then received a patella injury in July. As a result, he does not start and has played few minutes in four games. On Monday night he played just 13 minutes against Loyola (Maryland). When healthy, Hall is a stretch five that is 55 percent of two and 31 percent from three last year, but that seems to be a big “if” at this point Clemson has started sophomore center Ben Middlebrooks (6’10”, 240) in his absence, but Middlebrooks is really a placeholder : He has in total of 7 points scored in five games and has yet to play more than 11 minutes in a game.
Instead, Clemson has primarily opted for small-ball, with senior power forward Hunter Tyson (6’8″, 220) and sophomore power forward Ian Schieffelin (6’7″, 230) playing together on the front line. Both players are solid rebounders, with Tyson posting double-doubles against The Citadel (19 points, 13 rebounds, hey Austin Ash, how are you?) and Bellarmine (11 and 10). Tyson also averages nearly five three-point attempts per game and shoots 33 percent, if you had any misunderstanding about his role. Schieffelin was a monster off the bench against The Citadel, with 20 points and 14 boards, but he hasn’t made as much of an impact since. Freshman Chauncey Wiggins (6’10”, 205) and RJ Godfrey (6’7″, 225) got a run in the Loyola blowout, but haven’t been seen much else.
Clemson runs a three-man backcourt led by junior point guard Chase Hunter (6’3″, 205). Hunter has been hot so far this season, with 68 EIGHT PERCENT out of three and averaging 16 points per game. Wing forward Brevin Galloway (6’3″, 210) hasn’t been as effective from deep, making only 5 of 18 attempts so far this season, but gets into the court and makes a lot of fouls. Shooting guard Alex Hemenway (6’4″, 195) is a pure perimeter shooter, but has made 48% on a team-high 25 attempts this season. Freshman Dillon Hunter (6’3″, 195) and Josh Beadle (6’3 “, 185) provide bench depth, but neither has been productive.
So here’s the thing: Even if Hall is healthy and can go more than 30 minutes, Clemson isn’t deep. The backcourt is essentially three guys playing for 30 minutes, with some help from some hot bodies; the frontcourt isn’t much better. The whole Brownell slow pace defense thing isn’t just a style for this side. It’s a necessity. And Iowa is the second fastest offensive team in the country. The slow possession defensive plan is also Shaheen Holloway’s calling card, and Iowa dragged them into a 70-possession game on their home floor. Unless Hall can go 30 minutes, Clemson will also struggle to close the track against a taller, leaner, deeper Iowa front line. Iowa should head to the Emerald Coast and drag Clemson into the deep water.