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Next Up - Clemson

Clemson in Littlejohn is never easy. This year could be really tough.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: JAN 07 Duke at Boston College
CHESTNUT HILL, MA - JANUARY 07: Duke Blue Devils forward Dariq Whitehead (0) during the college basketball game between Duke Blue Devils and Boston College Eagles on January 7, 2023, at Conte Forum in Chestnut Hill, MA.
Photo by M. Anthony Nesmith/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Duke follows up an impressive home win over Pitt with a trip to always dangerous Littlejohn with a twist: Clemson is 6-0 for the first time in ACC history and they always love to lay in to Duke or UNC.

This trip will be no different.

The Tigers have emerged as a team to be reckoned with. Their losses are to South Carolina, 60-58, Iowa, 74-71 and Loyola of Chicago, 76-58.

A couple of things to keep in mind; South Carolina is a rivalry game and even though they’re mediocre this season, in a rivalry game you never know.

And in all three games, and really now to an extent, big man PJ Hall was not fully rehabbed from his knee injury.

He did score 15 against the Gamecocks, but he didn't score at all against Iowa and had just seven against Loyola.

He’s generally playing a little more than a half most games, and occasionally north of 30, but not the minutes his talent demand. Our guess is that it’s a combination of caution and conditioning.

Compare that to 6-7 senior Hunter Tyson though, who is pulling nearly 35 mpg.

He had some real moments last season but this year he’s playing like an All-ACC candidate. Currently averaging 16.2 ppg and 10.1 boards, he’s emerged as a terrific player for Brad Brownell. Last year against Duke he shot 6-12 for 13 points and had eight boards. He’s going to be a load.

Ian Schieffelin has emerged as another starter. The 6-7 sophomore isn’t putting up huge numbers but clearly the chemistry is working. And sometimes a guy starts because he’s willing to do the dirty work.

Clemson’s hot start is more impressive when you factor in the absence of Alex Hemenway: the 6-3 senior has been struggling with plantar fasciitis and hasn’t played since December 17th.

BC transfer Brevin Galloway, who is a South Carolina native, has been starting and doing well. He’s good for about 10-12 points most nights.

When Al-Amir Dawes and Nick Honor transferred out after last season, point guard looked like a major issue. But Chase Hunter has done well after moving over and he’s an outstanding defender as well. He’s averaging 14.5 ppg and 4.5 assists.

The bench is primarily going to be 6-3 freshman Joshua Beadle, 6-10 sophomore Ben Middlebrooks and 6-4 freshman Dillon Hunter, who is Chase’s younger brother.

Keep this in mind too: Clemson has five guys (counting Hemenway) who shoot better than 40 percent from three point range.

Duke of course goes to Littlejohn fresh off a dramatic win over Pitt. The Panthers are similar in that they are a tough defensive team and arguably more athletic than Clemson overall.

But Clemson is extremely well coached. People forget that Brownell went toe-to-toe with Butler and Brad Stevens when he coached Wright State in the Horizon League. Some of you may also remember that earlier in his career, UNC-Wilmington came extremely close to upsetting Maryland in the NCAA tournament the year after the Terps won the national title. He’s really good.

Like Wake Forest, NC State and Pitt did, Clemson is very likely going to come out with guns blazing. Duke likely won’t have Jeremy Roach, who is still getting over a toe injury, and even if they do, he won’t be 100 percent.

Kyle Filipowski will have his hands full with Hall, but it’s possible that Ryan Young could do well in this one although moving inside against Brownell’s very physical defense is not easy. For thinner guys like Derrick Lively and Tyrese Proctor, it could present some real challenges.

If Duke can show the kind of maturity and intensity that they showed in the second half against Pitt, and deal with an often intimidating Littlejohn crowd, it should be interesting.

As usual, we’ll add links as we find them.