No. 1 Comes to Town

CLEMSON – It's easy to tell when a big and spectacular show is about to occur in Clemson. Students line up the day before outside the ticket office at Littlejohn Coliseum to ensure they will get tickets to the event.

WHAT: Duke vs. Clemson
WHEN: 2 p.m., Saturday
WHERE: Littlejohn Coliseum
TV: ESPN

As of 4 p.m., Friday, that's exactly what was happening at Littlejohn. Outside the ticket office in the rain, there were at least 10 erected tents full of students eagerly awaiting admission to witness what may be their opportunity to see greatness this year on the basketball court this year. And the number of those waiting in line will no doubt increase to a couple of thousand by Saturday morning.

That's right, Duke, the No. 1 team in the nation, which also happens to have two of the best players in the country in J.J. Redick and Shelden Williams, will be performing live at 2 p.m., Saturday at Littlejohn Coliseum.

It doesn't get much bigger than this in and around Clemson.

It's easy to sense the excitement in town and with the Tiger players themselves.

"With us playing Duke with them being number one, and to knock them off to end their undefeated streak they have going this season, I think a lot more attention will be drawn to us to how good of a basketball team we are," Clemson point guard Vernon Hamilton said.

"We had losses like the Elon one, where people questioned how good we are. But to knock off a team like Duke, I really think that we'll have that respect and people will understand that we're a basketball team that's capable of winning this conference and that we can win with anybody."

The Blue Devils (15-0, 3-0 ACC) have blown through everyone they've played and the biggest reason why is Redick, who is within range making jump shots as soon as he gets off the bus.

Redick 25.9 points per game and much to the chagrin of his opposition, he has developed his ability to create shots off the dribble. He is no longer a stationary shooter.

That combined with his cockiness and attitude on the court has made him one of the most hated basketball players in the country. Not since Christian Laettner walked the Duke campus as a Blue Devil been so disliked.

"I'm about as sad as the rest of the people in the ACC (that this is his last year)," Tigers coach Oliver Purnell said. "He's had a phenomenal career and he's having an unbelievable year. I think he's the odds-on-favorite for the player of the year in the country.

"The prospect of seeing Duke next year without J.J. Redick certainly warms my heart."

If dealing with Redick wasn't enough of a problem, teams also have to contend with Williams, who may be the best big man in the country. In his last game, he recorded only the third triple-double in school history.

He's averaging 18.3 points and 9.3 rebounds per game. Williams has been practically unstoppable the last couple of years.

Even as daunting a task as it is, Purnell likes the fact that his team is set to go against the best team around.

"It's a game we're looking forward to," Purnell said. "Certainly, it's one of those measuring stick type of games. … I think our plan for winning the game is obviously not allowing Duke to be at it's best and to be near our best. …

"You've got to play very well for 40 minutes, do a good job on Redick and do a good job on Williams. The plan is real simple to see, it's just hard to do."

PROBABLE LINEUPS
Duke (15-0, 3-0 ACC)
PG 3 Greg Paulus (6-1, 185) 6.2 ppg, 5.0 apg
G 4 J.J. Redick (6-4, 190) 25.9 ppg, 2.2 apg
C 23 Shelden Williams (6-9, 250) 18.3 ppg, 9.3 rpg
F 15 Sean Dockery (6-2, 185) 8.5 ppg, 4.2 rpg
F 2 Josh McRoberts (6-10, 230) 7.7 ppg, 4.9 rpg

Clemson (13-3 overall, 2-1 ACC)
PG 3 Vernon Hamilton (6-0, 195) 12.5 ppg, 3.6 apg
G 25 Cliff Hammonds (6-3, 197) 9.9 ppg, 3.1 apg
C 33 Akin Akingbala (6-9, 240) 9.5 ppg, 7.1 rpg
F 32 Sam Perry (6-5, 208) 7.1 ppg, 2.8 rpg
F 42 Julius Powell (6-7, 208) 4.4 ppg, 2.7 rpg

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