"Oliver Purnell's Clemson Tigers are also unbeaten this year, with quality wins over Temple and Charlotte on their way to a 7-0 record. They have explosive athletes up and down their lineup, and they use them to advantage. Illinois coach Bruce Weber knows what he is up against.
"Clemson has beaten some good people by big margins. They were a number 5 seed last year in the NCAA tournament. Everyone hears about Duke and North Carolina, but they were right there with them."
Trevor Booker is their leading player. The 6'-7", 240 pound junior leads the Tigers with a 14.0 scoring average, 9.7 rebounds a game, and is first in the ACC in blocked shots with an average of 2.7 per game. Sophomore Jerai Grant (6'-8", 220) is also in the top ten in blocked shots. Grant has only a 5.3 scoring average, but he has made 15 of his 17 shots.
Weber is especially high on Booker and wonders if his inside players can defend him.
"Booker's a big kid. He's a big bulky guy with some experience. But he has some athleticism. He will pull our big guys out, he'll go one on one. In a way, he's a lot bigger version of Singletary (Chris, Kent State).
"He plays booty ball, he'll hit a variety of shots including a couple threes. Now, you've got a big guy that can go inside and shoot a lefty hook, score at the elbow, take you one on one, and he can also step out and make some shots."
As a team, the Tigers are shooting .493 on the season, including .403 on threes. Clemson's guards love to shoot from anywhere, and they shoot high percentages.
Sophomore Terrence Oglesby (6'-2", 190) is 2nd in the ACC in 3-pointers per game (2.6) and three point accuracy at .486. He is second on the team with a 13.7 scoring average. Senior K. C. Rivers (6'-5", 215) averages 11.0 points per game and now has 1308 career points. And he is tied for 7th on all-time Clemson steals list (166).
Freshman guard Andre Young (5'-9", 160) already has 20 assist with only 4 turnovers while scoring at a 5.3 clip on the young season. Other players of note include Raymond Sykes, a 6'-9", 220 senior who averages 10.1 points a game, Demontez Stitt (6'-2", 175 sophomore) who averages 9.3 points a game, and David Potter (6'-6", 205 junior) who averages 6 points a game.
Weber provided detail on Clemson's style of play.< P>"They're gonna press from the get-go. From the jump ball, they're gonna press, that's how they play. They're very aggressive. We're gonna have to take care of the ball, and then they're gonna come right back at you. They're a very good fastbreaking team.
"We've got a really quality opponent. Because of their experience and style of play, they could be the best team we play nonconference. They and Missouri play similar styles. They're very much uptempo.
"It's been Oliver Purnell's thing to press and fast break. Anytime he does clinics, that's what he's talking about. They do it very successfully. I think in the ACC he needed some kind of niche that's different than some other teams.
"Last year, I believe they were runnerup in the ACC, a five seed, and they had a tremendous season.. They've got quite a few guys back from that team. They're playing well, scoring a bunch of points, and we're gonna have our hands full.
"Their guards really put it up. Rivers received All-ACC mention. He hasn't shot it real well up to this point, but he has confidence and he'll put it up. With he and the Oglesby kid, you'll see some long shots. They come off ball screens, it's going up. They ball screen to get a shot and rebound, kind of Andy Kaufmann style. That thing's going up pretty quick with a lot of range.
"They almost have five guys in double figures. They have good balance and seem to enjoy playing with each other. And no doubt there's quickness and athleticism."
Weber is tired of the ACC dominance in these interconference matchups each year.
"We need to do well. Two years in a row, we've lost in the (Big Ten-ACC) Challenge. Not only us, but the whole Big Ten as well. I'd love to shut up the talking heads for awhile and not have them rip us for the next three months for losing the Big Ten-ACC Challenge."