SCOUTING THE TIGERS
Clemson's inside-out style is led by a pair of seniors in Demontez Stitt (6-2, 180 lbs.) Jerai Grant (6-8, 230 lbs.). The pair average 14 and 12 points, respectively, and provide the vast majority of the leadership. Stitt, the two-guard, plays a team-high 34 minutes and has taken the most shots with 334, hitting 44 percent from the field. Stitt likes the three, making 43 of 120, but can attack the bucket as well and get to the line (73 percent). The Matthews, N.C. native led the team in plus-minus ratio last season and has given new head coach Brad Brownell a piece around which to build the backcourts. He flashes very good quickness and decision making (104 assists, 65 turnovers), and will also pressure the Mountaineers on the boards. This is a decent defensive match-up for Truck Bryant, if indeed the WVU starter gets this assignment, and Bryant must keep Stitt out of the lane and from creating dumpdowns or kickouts to others.
Grant, a strong, excellent interior scorer (57 percent) will continually attack the rim. He has yet to take a three, but draws fouls almost as well as Stitt. His 6.7 rebounds lead the team, as do his 87 on the offensive end. Grant isn't one to always play with his back to the basket; he likes the jumpshot and driving the lane, and shows very solid defensive ability with 78 blocks – about the same number as WVU's John Flowers. West Virginia must be aware of him on both ends, as he can pressure the rim and alter shots on the other end. This is a pretty good athlete, and one can get out in transition as needed.
Point guard Andre Young (5-9, 175 lbs.) has the most total minutes on the team this year, and without him Clemson seems to bog down. The junior has a better assist-to-turnover ratio than Stitt and appears a bit of a glue guy on the floor. Young's shooting has been subpar, at 33 percent from the field, 40 from three, and he doesn't create much for himself or connect from the line. Still, his 10 points a contest are third-most, and his play on both ends (Young has a team high 45 steals) is crucial in handling West Virginia's Joe Mazzulla, keeping the Mountaineer off the boards and from showcasing his driving ability as well. If Mazzulla can draw a couple early fouls, WVU might be able to get an early edge in execution terms. Swingman Tanner Smith (6-5, 210 lbs.) is a solid shooter from all over the floor and averages eight points and 3.5 rebounds a game. The junior has started at shooting guard in the past, but doesn't hit the three consistently enough to stay a two. He is streaky at times, and must be guarded beyond the arc. Smith also has 41 steals and plays a good blend of on-ball and team-scheme defense.
Devin Booker (6-8, 245 lbs.), listed as a forward/center combo, is the brother of former Clemson forward and first-round NBA pick Trevor Booker, who helped the Tigers to the 2007 NIT final against West Virginia. Devin, a sophomore, shows some power inside and has the bulk to create defensive problems. He averages eight points and five rebounds and can gain putbacks if not sealed off. He isn't extremely quick, but does slide into position decently to create lanes to get himself the ball on the block. Booker, 44 percent from the floor, has taken 44 threes, making 15, and won't limit his shooting options. This is a player with much upside, and one who must be matched physically.
|Thurs. March 17
12:15 p.m. EST
St. Pete Times Forum
WVU 20-11, 5-seed
Clemson 21-11, 12-seed
WVU – 21
Clemson - 57
The Tigers go about nine players deep, with the most bench production typically coming from Milton Jennings (6-9, 225 lbs.). The forward has started four times, and averages eight points and five rebounds in about 20 minutes. The sophomore has very good size and length and actually shoots well for a player of his size across the board. He has hit 42 percent from the field – 30 from three – and made 56 of 73 free throws (77 percent). Jennings gets into foul trouble at times, limiting his minutes, and he turns the ball over far too often for the coaching staff at 64. This is mainly an offensive player, and one who can score in a variety of ways. He shouldn't be able to get continuous quality stops on the other end, though, and he doesn't always catch the ball cleanly. The other listed forward, junior Bryan Narcisse (6-6, 220 lbs.), scores three points and has a rebound per game. He gives Clemson 12 solid minutes, and is very accurate from inside the arc, but is less-than-average from three and doesn't get to the line well or finish from there (51 percent).
Senior-freshman guard combo Zavier Anderson (5-9, 170 lbs.) and Cory Stanton (5-10, 175 lbs.) both play about 10 minutes a game and give Brownell three-plus points and an assist or two. Anderson is more of a passer, producing both more assists and turnovers than Stanton, who creates his own shot and has taken 83 field goals compared to 29 for Anderson. Stanton is also better from the line, but has struggled from three-point range. These are a nice addition, but aren't going to often make or break a game.
The only real personnel issue in this opening round game is Clemson's quick, agile guards who can get into the lane and dump down or kickout to create shots for others. The Tigers don't, however, pride themselves on the offensive end nearly as much as they do forcing turnovers to create typically easy points. This is a defense-first team which would like to clamp down, then outlet-and-go – somewhat like West Virginia save that CU is a bit more transition-influenced.
The Mountaineers did a reasonable job of containing Marquette's transition, especially after allowing far too many points in that area in the first series meeting this season. WVU's problem in that game was being unable to score itself. Huggins' mantras will be the same here: Rebound. Defend. Stop transition by halting turnovers and stopping the ball – and don't allow easy points. One would think West Virginia would be able to do so after being rested and allowed to refocus after a poor Big East showing. The question, then, will be how West Virginia shoots. WVU is far more tested and defensive-minded than Clemson. It should at least stalemate any physical play – barring tough whistles in the softer-than-Big-East NCAA Tournament. It should be able to create edges in rebounding and in the halfcourt defensive game. But if it can't shoot, if no threes are falling and the short jumpers are rolling out, this one could be difficult. Shoot well, and it's onto the next round. Shoot poorly, and West Virginia could well be the first team eliminated in the Round of 64.
WVU: F Kevin Noreen (Knee), Out for Season.
West Virginia is making its 24th NCAA Tournament appearance. The Mountaineers reached at least the Sweet 16 in five of its last six NCAA Tournaments. This is the program's fifth straight sixth appearance in seven seasons – ranking second for consecutive berths in team history (1955-60, six straight).
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Bob Huggins is making his 19th NCAA Tournament appearance. Only four active coaches have more. Huggins has 690 career wins and is the only coach in school history to win 20 games in each of his first four seasons.
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Truck Bryant needs three points to reach 1,000 for his career. John Flowers is second in school history in single-season blocked shots with 74 this year (D'or Fischer, 124 in 2004).
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WVU has won 20 of its last 25 and nine of its last 10 games televised by CBS – including wins against Kentucky and Ohio State, which West Virginia would likely play if the Mountaineers were to continue to win.
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West Virginia has won seven of its last nine games in Florida. WVU is 1-0 all-time at the St. Pete Times Forum, but 0-1 in the Sunshine State this season. The Mountaineers are 18-6 in postseason games in the last seven years.
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WVU has won 11 of its last 12 games in March. It is 7-3 all-time on St. Patrick's Day.
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The Mountaineers rank fourth in the nation in three-point field goal defense at 29.1 percent. WVU has won 42 of its last 46 games when holding foes to less than 70 points.
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West Virginia last played Clemson in the 2007 NIT Final. The Mountaineers won 78-73. WVU also won the first two series meetings in 1952. Huggins is 2-1 versus Clemson, both games coming when he coached Cincinnati. Tigers' head coach Brad Brownell has never faced West Virginia or Huggins.