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Carlos Previews Clemson

Clemson faces off against Duke this Sunday in Cameron Indoor Stadium, a venue where they have lost 15 of their last 16 contests. Overall, they have won just 4 times at Duke. This season, at 9-5 and with most victories coming over teams like Winthrop, Wofford, and Charleston Southern, changing that trend seems like a tall order for the Tigers. In fact, the highest ranked team Clemson has defeated is Northwestern who clocks in with an RPI ranking around 120. The Tigers find themselves with an even lower RPI of 137.

It’s hard to generate a great deal of respect for Coach Larry Shyatt’s team based upon their victories but then you take a look at some of their losses and suddenly they look like a much improved team over last year’s 10-20 squad. In their second game of the season the Tigers took Tommy Amaker’s Seton Hall team to the limit before falling by a single point. A last second shot to win the game was blocked by freshman forward Eddie Griffin. Clemson also had close losses to Cincinnati (8 pts.), Washington (1 pt.), and most recently, Maryland.

In that Maryland game the Tigers trailed by just 3 points at the half and actually held a 2 point lead late in the game before Terrance Morris carried the Terps to the victory. On a daunting note for Duke, Maryland was unable to put the Tigers away until they switched from their normal man-to-man defense into a zone. Against the zone, the Tigers struggled and were unable to keep pace with the Terps scoring.

While Duke is unlikely to play any zone they do enter the game hoping for a stifling defensive effort. To do so, they will need a greater effort than what they put forth in their last outing against Florida State. Despite a relatively easy 27 point victory, the Duke defense wasn’t as dominating as they would hope. For the game, the Seminoles shot 47% and committed 15 turnovers. Those numbers aren’t exceptionally great but neither are they as suffocating as Duke would like. For the season, Duke’s opponents are averaging just 44% from the field and 21 turnovers per game.

As one would expect though, there were plenty of positives coming out of the big win over Florida State. The team has to be very happy with their work on the glass, where they held a 39 to 26 rebound advantage with 9 of those extra rebounds coming on the offensive end (18 to 9). Duke will need to continue that focus on rebounds as they head into a game against a Clemson team that averages over 40 boards a game.


The temptation when talking about Clemson is to devote 25 paragraphs to guard Will Solomon and 25 words to the rest of the team. That’s easy to do when you look at the fact that Solomon accounted for an astounding 32% of his team’s points last year, a figure that was tops among ACC teams. (For perspective, the second highest percentage was Georgia Tech’s Jason Collier at 24%.) Solomon was an All-ACC first team selection last year but if you ask any observer not wearing orange to name the top guards in the conference you’re not likely to hear Solomon’s name very quickly. In a league filled with excellent guards (Jason Williams, Juan Dixon, Donald Hand and Joe Forte for example) a guy like Solomon who posted big numbers on a mediocre team is likely to be overlooked.

Last year, Solomon didn’t help that perception much as his shooting percentage was the worst among the ACC leaders with the exception of Florida State’s Ron Hale. This year Solomon has improved both his field goal and 3 point percentages and, perhaps more importantly, he’s getting more help from his teammates on the offensive end of the court. He still accounts for a significant chunk of the Clemson offense, but despite an increase in his own production, his percentage of the team’s total has fallen. Much of that is due to a new uptempo offense installed by Shyatt that has increased the Tiger scoring by 15 points a game.

Still, when you think Clemson, the first player you think of is Solomon. Offensively he is one of the most exciting ACC players to watch. He’ll work forever without the ball to get an open look and there’s no place on the court that he considers out of range. Many of his points come from behind the three point line and quite a few of them come from a range that would have Duke assistant Chris Collins questioning Solomon’s shot selection. But Solomon is more than just a deep shooter. He’s especially quick with the ball and can take it to the rack or pull up in the lane for a jumper. Just to round out the package he has pretty good hops that make it difficult for players his own size (6-1) to defend him.

On the other side of the ball Solomon is a sound, but not especially inspired defender. Much of that is because Clemson cannot afford for him to get into foul trouble. Last year he was on the court for 36 minutes a game. This year it’s 35 minutes a game and that figure should grow in league competition. Solomon will play conservative defense and pickup the occasional steal, but more than anything, he’ll stay in the game so he can score on the other end.

Playing the role of "That Other Guy" in the Clemson backcourt is sophomore point guard Edward Scott (6-0/180). Last year Scott was the lead guard for a team with an incredibly bad .84 to 1 assist to turnover ratio. His personal number in wasn’t much better at 1.25 to 1. This year the Clemson team has continued to perform poorly in that area at .98 to one, but Scott has improved to a more respectable 1.9 to 1. Even better for the Clemson team he has increased his assists per game to almost 5 per game as opposed to his 2.7 average last year. Again, that is partially a result of the increased tempo from this year’s team.

However, other than distributing the ball, Scott doesn’t bring much to the offensive end of the court. Despite logging more than 32 minutes a game Scott is only scoring at a 6.3 ppg clip. Additionally, he is not a good shooter, particularly from long range where he shoots just 20% from the three point line. Defensively he’s doesn’t possess as much quickness as many opposing point guards he faces, especially guys like Jason Williams.

If either Solomon or Scott leaves the game, or Shyatt wants to go with a small, quick lineup, then freshman Tony Stockman will come in. Stockman is playing nearly 26 minutes a game and is the team’s second leading scorer at nearly 13 ppg. Stockman was a relatively unheralded recruit early last year but saw his stock rise thanks to a strong summer camp performance. He chose Clemson after considering Wake Forest, Nebraska, and Ohio State. In addition to being a sound scorer, Stockman is also has the potential to be a very good point guard. He has a complete offensive game with the ability to take his guy off the dribble, shoot the long jumper, or pull up in the lane. Shyatt liked to compare him to Jason Williams- not Duke’s but the one in the pros. While that may be a bit of a stretch he is still an exciting player off the bench. His presence on the court also has the additional benefit of taking pressure away from Solomon. Defensively, much like Solomon, Stockman can coast for stretches.

Also coming off the bench in the last few games has been sophomore Pasha Bains (6-3/205). Bains followed Shyatt to Clemson after originally committing to Wyoming. He’s a physical player who can also light it up from the three point line where he hits at just over 41%. That’s a significant improvement over last year where his 26% three point shooting was a major disappointment for a guy who came out of Canada with a reputation of a major long distance shooter.

While Shyatt has been tinkering with his starting lineup, Duke’s Coach Krzyzewski has penciled in the same backcourt for every game this season. For Coach K that’s a pretty easy decision since the keystone of that backcourt is Jason Williams. Let me just repeat my standard line at this point- nobody in college is playing better basketball than Jason Williams. I keep waiting for Williams to let up or have an off game and it just doesn’t happen. Starting with the Illinois game, Williams has gone on a streak where he has scored over 20 points a game every night and has just been torrid from the three point line. For the season he’s now averaging nearly 20 points a night and hitting on an astounding 48% of his three point attempts. Add in his 6 assists, 2 steals, and 3 rebounds per game and you get the complete package.

Starting with Williams in the backcourt is senior Nate James who at 6-6 and 200 lbs. of muscle usually enjoys a significant physical advantage over his opponent. James is also coming of a string of great games including a 22 point, 6 rebound performance at Florida State, a 25 point, 8 rebound game against NC A&T, and 10 point 9 rebound outing against Stanford. Along the way he has emerged as Duke’s leading offensive rebounder at just over 3 a game. James had struggled from the three point line for a stretch of the season so his 6 for 10 performance against Florida State was a welcome sight for the Duke team. James doesn’t do well when he tries to create a three point shot off the dribble but he is a very accurate spot up shooter, particularly in the deep corners. He can also take the ball to the basket and use his size in the paint.

The backcourt depth for the Blue Devils is pretty easy to sum up. It’s freshman Chris Duhon. Duhon continues to defer his offense to his teammates, often passing up open looks to set up other player’s shots. He is the fourth in assists for the ACC which is still only good enough for second on the Duke team behind Williams. Duhon has also been very impressive on the defensive end of the floor where, with the exception of an incredible performance from NC A&T’s JJ Miller, he has been a very effective defender. He will need to perform at his defensive peak against Clemson where he is likely to see a lot of minutes against Solomon and Stockman.


7-1 center Adam Allenspach is the anchor of the Tiger frontcourt. He’s also one of the most reviled players to set foot in Cameron thanks to an elbow he delivered to the face of Trajan Langdon two years ago. While that play is probably not indicative of Allenspach general on-court demeanor it’s still fresh in the minds of many Blue Devil fans.

If the Cameron crowd doesn’t have warm memories of Allenspach, he probably doesn’t have fond memories of Cameron either. In last year’s game Allenspach suffered a back injury just 6 minutes into the game. The injury required off-season surgery and has continued to limit his play in recent games. That’s unfortunate for Allenspach as he has played some pretty solid ball this season including a string of 4 straight double-doubles while Clemson was playing some of the lesser competition on their schedule. When he has been playing, Allenspach has been effective and is the team’s leading rebounder at 8 boards a night. For the season he is averaging 11.4 ppg to go along with the rebounding totals. Not surprisingly he is Clemson’s best shot blocker but at just over 1 block a game that’s not really significant.

Joining Allenspach in the frontcourt is 6-8 sophomore Ray Henderson. Henderson is a real load at 250 lbs. and had a decent game against Duke last year at Littlejohn. Henderson finished that game with 10 points and 7 assists in just 19 minutes of play. Henderson won’t stray far from the paint on offense and is uncomfortable defending on the perimeter. He leads Clemson in field goal percentage at nearly 66% although he only attempts about 3 shots a game. Henderson also gives the Tigers a big body to use on screens to free up Solomon, Bains, and Stockman. His productivity has been limited this year by an ankle injury and conditioning problems.

Starting at the other frontcourt spot is another of the Tiger’s strong freshman class. 6-4, North Carolina native Dwon Clifton brings an element of sorely needed athleticism to the Tiger frontcourt. Clifton moved into the starting lineup in the last game against Maryland and responded with a reasonable 7 point effort in 14 minutes. As a high school player Clifton had great range on his jumper and was known for his explosive penetration. He’s not always the most discreet when it comes to shot selection and his three point shooting has yet to live up to his high school reputation, but he is able to slash to the basket at this level much like his prep days.

Off the bench the Tigers have a number of options despite the loss of key performer Chucky Gilmore. Gilmore is another of the big bodies that have become synonymous with Clemson basketball. At 6-8/255 he was the team’s second leading rebounder last year. Offensively he was extremely raw as evidenced by his sub 40% field goal shooting. Unfortunately for the Tigers, Gilmore is lost for the year with a torn ACL.

However, the cupboard is far from bare and Shyatt can turn to a number of options including 6-5 swingman Dustin Braddick who sees about 23 minutes a game. Braddick is a versatile player who could also play in the backcourt although with the loss of Gilmore and the emergence of Stockman, he’ll probably see most of his time at the wing. He’s not much of a shooter but, like Nate James, he is very effective on the offensive glass where he pulls down over 2.5 rebounds a game.

Clemson has another talented freshman on their bench in 6-7/250 Chris Hobbs from Chapel Hill. Hobbs was one of the most talented recruits in a strong North Carolina class before an ACL injury robbed him of his senior season. He has a physical maturity that is not common in a freshman and uses that strength to pull down nearly 6 rebounds a game despite playing only 15 minutes. Offensively he is very active and effective inside and is not apt to stray far from the basket.

Rounding out the frontcourt reserves is sophomore Tomas Nagys who has bulked up to 235 lbs. on his 6-9 frame. Nagys has started some games for Clemson this year although his playing time has dropped off in recent games. Nagys is a former high school teammate of Duke target Ousmane Cisse. Unlike Cisse, his numbers are far more modest and he’s not the kind of guy who will step out and attempt a three point shot.

For Duke the frontline picture has changed somewhat. Not in terms of the starters, but rather in the makeup of the reserves. The starters are very established in Carlos Boozer, Shane Battier, and Michael Dunleavy but the suspension of Andre Sweet, the injury status of Nick Horvath, and the play of reserves Matt Christensen and Casey Sanders has resulted in a probable change in the frontline rotation.

There’s still an enormous drop off between the Duke frontcourt starters and the reserves. That’s as much a testament to the strength of the starters as it is the quality of the reserves. At 6-9/270, Carlos Boozer gives the Devils a strong inside presence. However after starting the season strongly, Boozer has struggled offensively and the team is hoping to reestablish his inside game. That maybe difficult against Allenspach as Boozer has historically had trouble with bigger defenders. In the second meeting last year, Boozer was held to 8 points on 3-6 shooting and fouled out in 27 minutes. That performance was almost identical to his game against Clemson in the ACC tournament although those numbers are slightly skewed due to the onslaught the Devils released on the Tigers that day.

In Boozer’s last game he struggled at the start and he was taken out of the game earlier than usual. However, upon his return he was able to contribute to the team despite some problems from the field by focusing on the defensive glass. Offensively the Devils would like to get Boozer back to converting baskets off from Williams’ penetration although opposing teams are clogging the lane and limiting that option. Boozer has also shown a nice touch on a 12 foot wing jumper that he would like to reestablish. He attempted the shot 3 times against Florida State but was unable to convert, perhaps because of missing the last week of practice with illness.

One guy who is not looking to reestablish anything is Shane Battier who has stepped up his performance in the last few games to play like an National Player of the Year candidate. Much like Jason Williams, Battier has been exceptional in his last 5 games and his effort at Florida State exemplified his play as of late. In that game Battier had 22 points on 8-11 shooting. His offense, criticized earlier this year by some as being too reliant on the three point shot, has become more balanced with half of his buckets coming from inside the three point arc. That offense has become a mixture of a deadly accuracy from the three point line (47%), an ability to take the ball to the basket, and an improved post up game. In the Florida State game Duke also showed a new offensive look with Boozer at the high post and Battier down on the blocks. With Boozer demanding the attention of the opposing center away from the basket, Battier has more room to maneuver. His offensive effectiveness as a post player is greatly increased with that room that allows him to utilize his quickness.

Against the Seminoles, Battier also grabbed 8 rebounds, blocked 4 shots, and for good measure had a steal and an assist. Duke is very fortunate right now to have two player performing at incredible levels. While Jason Williams is attracting well-deserved attention of his play Battier continues to do all the things this team needs to win.

The final member of the starting frontcourt is 6-9 sophomore Michael Dunleavy. Dunleavy has been in a small slump from the three point line where his shooting percentage has slipped to 38% which would be a pretty fair number for most players. However, for Dunleavy that comes on the heels of a 2-7 performance against Florida State and a 1-6 performance against NC A&T and a 2-6 game in his homecoming against Portland. Prior to that time he was leading the team at 44%. Still, despite the shooting difficulty, Dunleavy has relied upon his versatility to continue to contribute to the team. His 12.5 ppg are fifth on the team and his 5 rebounds a game are third on the team as are his 3.1 assists per game. He’s also second on the team in steals. With that great versatility Dunleavy is able to identify what the team needs on any given night and fill the void. Although he’s not the fastest wing forward in the ACC he is able to drive to the basket and distribute the ball with a deft touch. He’s also Duke’s best finisher in the open court where he combines with Williams and Duhon to give Duke a great fast break combination.

When Duke goes to the bench the first guy in for the frontcourt has typically been 6-11 sophomore Casey Sanders. But the Florida State game may have signaled a change in the rotation as 6-10 junior Matt Christensen came off the bench early in the first half. After the game Christensen noted that the coaching staff wanted him to play hard, play defense, and rebound the basketball. While Christensen’s performance wasn’t earth shattering, it was notable for Duke. His numbers were modest - he had only 2 points, and 2 rebounds before fouling out in 11 minutes of play – but more importantly he was able to play defense so that the team didn’t suffer any drop in intensity. Indeed, he may have even improved the team’s defensive intensity when he came into the game. Just as important for Christensen is that he was able to maintain his focus on defense and not pick up quick fouls in the first half.

Sanders did see playing time in the second half of the game and, faced with the task of defending the mammoth Nigel Dixon, was able to find a way to foul out of the game in 5 minutes of play. Although he is clearly more athletic that Christensen, his lack of familiarity with organized basketball has hindered his ability to earn playing time. When he’s in the game Sanders’ goal is the same as Christensens’- play defense and rebound. Sanders can also contribute to the team in transition as he is very quick for a post player.

Duke may also turn to football player, walk-on Reggie Love who has seen some minutes in recent games. Although he’s very athletic and carries an impressive high school resume, Love has yet to look comfortable playing collegiate basketball.


Whenever anyone faces Clemson the first priority is obviously going to be Will Solomon. The fact is though that Solomon is going to get his points. Last year, with a terrific defender like Chris Carrawell on him he still managed to score over 19 points a game. This year there’s no Chris Carrawell out there as a defensive stopper, but Nate James and Chris Duhon are doing a sound job filling the role. Solomon presents a matchup problem for both of defenders as his quickness will be troublesome for James and his experience will be a challenge for Duhon.

Still, Duhon is probably the best matchup against Solomon and the goal is to make him work for his points. If the Duke defense can force Solomon’s point output to around the same total as his shot attempts they’ll be pretty happy and Duke will have won the game. Duhon has the quickness to stay with Solomon although the Tigers will utilize a number of screens to free him. Duke’s defense will have to offer enough help and switches on the screens to limit Solomon’s open looks. If James, who will start out defending Solomon, is able to stay in front of him then he’ll be effective because of his size. However the quickness advantage that Solomon enjoys could also lead to some quick fouls for a slower defender.

After Solomon there are few Tigers who have been very effective against Duke. Their problems are further complicated by the fact that most of their scoring comes from their guards, most of whom are smaller players. Solomon, Stockman, and Bains account for 54% of the Clemson offense and none of those players are over 6-3. That’s also a group that doesn’t include starting point guard Edward Scott who, like Solomon and Stockman, is listed at just 6-1. In order for Shyatt to put enough scorers on the floor to stay with Duke’s high-powered offense he will have to accept some mismatches on the defensive end of the court.

In any event the Tigers will be giving up a lot of size at the 2 and 3 spots from the start of the game. Typically when you play a smaller team they offset that by pressing or forcing an uptempo pace. While Shyatt’s team is playing at a faster pace this season they still don’t want to play at Duke’s pace and they certainly don’t want to press Duke. Their big men are probably not ready to run with Duke either. With Allenspach suffering from a bad back and Henderson’s questionable conditioning they will have a hard time keeping up with Battier and Boozer.

Obviously Duke will want to create turnovers and convert them into easy baskets. With a Clemson team that has no player with a greater than 1 to 1 assist to turnover ratio against Duke that should be an accomplishable goal. Once Duke is in a halfcourt offense the Tigers will be hard pressed to check Jason Williams. Ideally they fare best with a zone to limit his penetration but there’s that problem of the rest of the Duke team and their long range accuracy. Ask Temple about the strategy of packing it in to limit Williams’ penetration. Battier should also be looking forward to squaring off against Henderson who will have a hard time staying with him on the perimeter. The better matchup for Clemson will be with promising freshman Hobbs who is a little quicker but will still have problems.

Duke is also likely to try and work Boozer back into the offensive flow. They may show more of the high/low offense with him in the high post where he can take advantage of his quickness and shooting touch. James may also have a big game on the offensive boards due to the size advantage he’ll have.

Duke will come out hard early. If they aren’t able to generate many turnovers Clemson may be able to stay close for some time. They may also be able to stick with Duke if they get hot from the perimeter where they attempt over 20 three point shots a game. But eventually the more talented Blue Devils should be able to continue their success against the Tigers.