Preview: No. 10 Notre Dame @ Clemson

Despite losses in two of their last three games, including a 30-point drubbing at Duke Saturday, the Irish remain No. 10 in the latest Associated Press poll and second in the ACC, one victory ahead of North Carolina and Duke, and two wins ahead of Louisville.

• Game 26: No. 10 Notre Dame (21-4, 9-3) @ Clemson (14-9, 6-5)
• Place: Littlejohn Coliseum; Clemson, S.C.
• Time: 7:00 p.m. ET
• Conference: Atlantic Coast Conference
• Location: Clemson, S.C.
• Nickname: Tigers
• 2013-14 record: 23-13 (10-8 in ACC)

Clemson Head Coach
Brad Brownell (5th year at Clemson) -- Career record: 255-152 in 13th year as head coach (83-40 in four years at UNC Wilmington; 84-45 in four years at Wright State; 88-67 in fifth year at Clemson).

Brownell, 46, was an assistant coach at Evansville (his birthplace), Indianapolis and UNC Wilmington before landing his first head-coaching job with UNC Wilmington in 2002, where he led the Seahawks to a pair of NCAA tournament appearances. The Seahawks won 24 and 25 games in his first and fourth years respectively at UNC Wilmington.

That led to a four-year stint at Wright State where he won at least 20 games in each season and took the Raiders to an NCAA tournament appearance.

Brownell put Clemson in the NCAA tournament in his first season with the Tigers. Clemson has not been back to the Big Dance since, although the Tigers were 23-13, 10-8 in 2013-14.

Clemson Scouting Report
The Tigers had their four-game winning streak come to a halt at Miami Sunday night in a 56-45 setback. The Hurricanes limited Clemson to 32.8 percent shooting from the field, including 5-of-20 from three-point range and an unusual 0-of-1 from the free-throw line.

Those numbers are indicative of the type of offensive team this is. They don’t shoot well, and you don’t have to look at their assist numbers (10.4/game, 309th nationally) to see what a poor passing team this is.

Clemson entered the game on the heels of road wins at Florida State (by six) and North Carolina State (by 11), and home victories over Boston College (by 15) and Wake Forest (by 2). Other notable performances included a nine-point victory at Pittsburgh, a 13-point victory at home over Syracuse, a six-point loss at Louisville, and a 24-point spanking at home from North Carolina to kick off ACC play the first week of January.

The top scorer on this point-challenged team is 6-foot-7, 215-pound sophomore Jaron Blossomgame, who scores at a 12.8 clip while grabbing 7.9 rebounds per game. The catalyst of Clemson’s sporadic offensive attack, he leads the Tigers in offensive rebounds with 57, but has converted just 25.5 percent of his three-point attempts.

Freshman Donte Grantham, a 6-foot-8, 205-pounder, is second on the team in scoring at 9.8 points per game while grabbing 4.6 rebounds. Grantham shoots much too often from beyond the arc (117 attempts) for a 28.2 percent shooter. He also connects on just 55.3 percent of his free-throw attempts.

Rod Hall, a 6-foot-1, 205-pound senior, is the principle ball handler for the Tigers, averaging 8.7 points and 3.6 assists per game. (Note: Hall was sidelined late in the Miami game with a shoulder injury.) Damarcus Harrison, a 6-foot-4, 205-pound senior, averages 8.4 points and is second to Grantham in three-pointers made with 31.

Clemson’s bulk comes from 6-foot-10, 255-pound Landry Nnoko, who averages 7.4 points and 5.5 rebounds per game. He leads the team in blocked shots with 41 while ranking second to Blossomgame in offensive rebounds with 53. Nnoko’s effectiveness on both ends of the court comes within five feet of the hoop.

Jordan Roper, a 6-foot-0, 165-pound junior, averages 6.7 points per game while shooting 81.0 percent from the line. He’ll let fly some wildly erratic shots from three-point range, as evidenced by his 30.4 shooting percentage from beyond the arc.

Clemson-Notre Dame Preview
The Tigers are one of the most offensively-challenged teams in the ACC, scoring at a 62.3 pace, including 58.5 in 11 conference games. On the other hand, because of their deliberate offensive pace and length on the defensive end, they’re allowing just 58.7 points per game.

In 10 of 11 ACC games, the Tigers have scored less than 70 points while in eight of those conference tilts, they’ve held opponents to less than 60 points. In other words, bring your lunch pail because it’s going to be a long night on the job. And while you’re at it, bring your hard hat for fear of getting hit in the coconut by one of Clemson’s errant shots.

The Tigers are 287th in the country in field-goal percentage (.409), and it’s not just away from Littlejohn Coliseum where they struggle to shoot. At home in conference play, Clemson has converted just 41.6 percent of its two-point attempts, 28.3 percent of its three-point attempts, and 61.9 percent of its free-throw attempts.

All that being said, this is a dangerous game for the Irish, who enter tonight’s play in second place behind Virginia, one win ahead of North Carolina and Duke, and two wins ahead of Louisville. Notre Dame will be favored in five of their remaining six regular-season games with only a trip to Louisville looming as an underdog.

If the Irish can win this game, it should serve as a pivotal victory in their attempt to secure that No. 2 spot in the final ACC standings, which would give them a favorable NCAA tournament seed and a better location such as Pittsburgh, Louisville or Columbus, Ohio.

But it likely won’t be easily against Clemson under Brad Brownell, who has done a magnificent job at places like UNC Wilmington, Wright State and now Clemson, which is hardly a basketball school. The Tigers are long and they contest everything, pressuring the basketball in ways that could be reminiscent of Notre Dame’s game against Duke last Saturday.

The Irish have an extra 28 hours of recovery time on Clemson after the trip to Durham Saturday and Clemson’s Sunday night excursion to Miami. And yet this has a make-or-break feel to it for the Tigers, who would fall to 6-6 in conference play with a loss to the Irish, and trips to Duke and Notre Dame down the stretch.

Clemson is 3-2 at home this year – with losses to Florida State and North Carolina (by 24) – while the Tigers were 6-3 at Littlejohn last year, including a 13-point victory over Duke. In its last 14 home games, Clemson has allowed just 56.6 points per game.

On paper, at least offensively, the Tigers don’t look good enough to defeat the Irish if Notre Dame brings it’s A game on the defensive end. That’s not a given, but the Tigers are a poor offensive club. If Demetrius Jackson pressures the basketball and Notre Dame does a good job defending the passing lanes, Clemson will turn it over and have difficulty getting clean looks.

If the Irish can return to form from its 30-point beating at Duke, they’ll raise their road mark in ACC play to 5-2. But this one will be a battle and it probably won’t be pretty, which is just the way Clemson likes/needs it.

• Pointspread: Notre Dame by 4
• Irish Illustrated Prediction: Notre Dame 65, Clemson 62
• Season record: 17-8 straight up; 9-8 vs. points Top Stories