The morale and confidence of the Tigers has to be as high as it's been in weeks after closing out the season with an impressive 12-point win over a good Syracuse team on Senior Day. All of the seniors had a good game after looking a little tight in the first half. Reed scored just 4 points in the first half but finished with 24 points, 10 rebounds, 5 steals and 2 assists. He was also 8-8 at the free throw line, and if anyone on the team is itching for a shot at revenge against the Wolfpack, it's the Tigers' leading scorer. As well as he played on Saturday, Reed was just 2-7 from beyond the arc. That has been a source of inconsistency for him this season, and if he can shoot 40% or better on Wednesday, the Tigers will have an excellent shot at advancing.
Eli Thomas had an outstanding game in the first meeting with the Pack, scoring 18 points on 8-11 from the field, but he played just 26 minutes due to foul trouble. That has been the hobgoblin for Eli throughout his career, and he will need to be as conscientious of his fouls as ever on Wednesday if the Tigers are going to win. The Tigers' odds of winning go up substantially when Eli plays 30 or more minutes. He is #14 nationally in field goal percentage at 62% from the field, 2nd in the ACC and 4th in the Power Five.
David Skara is the unsung player that glues this team together. The team's best defender missed the UNC game with an elbow injury, and the Tigers would have surely won the game if he had played. UNC made 13 three-pointers in the game--second-most for them all season--and the Tigers still had the ball with a chance to win. Since returning to the lineup, the Tigers have won 2 in a row. Skara told me going into the Syracuse game that his elbow felt fine, and he played a very good game. He scored just 2 points in the first meeting in Raleigh, and I look to him to be more of a factor offensively in this one.
The Tigers could also use some offense from Aamir Simms. He is a solid rebounder and defender but has been inconsistent on the offensive end. He had a dreadful game at Notre Dame, fouling out with 3 points, going 1-7 from the field. He was better in the Syracuse win, scoring 8 points, but he was just 1-4 from beyond the arc. If Simms can make a couple 3's and score 10 points or more, the Tigers will almost always win.
It will be interesting to see whether the crowd favors one team or the other in this game. Charlotte is obviously within driving distance of both fan bases, but it's a noon game, so which fan base is more willing to skip work for a second-round ACC Tournament game? State is more of a basketball school while Clemson is a football school, so perhaps that gives us our answer. Time will tell, but since the Tigers went into Raleigh on a Saturday afternoon and should have beaten the Pack, I like their chances on Wednesday. The Tigers are playing much better than they were then--especially on the defensive end. I think they will come into this game with enormous chips on their shoulders seeking revenge, and they will get it. Tigers survive and advance against the Pack and lock up a return trip to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2011, Brownell's first year at Clemson. Their reward will be a 12:30 Thursday game against No.1 seed Virginia, which rolled over the Tigers in Littlejohn back in mid-January and will almost certainly be a No.1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
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