If Clemson is to pull off its biggest upset of the 2021-22 men's college basketball season, it's going to take another level of physicality than what the Tigers have shown in the past.
The Duke Blue Devils, who host Clemson as an 11-point favorite at Cameron Indoor Stadium on Tuesday night at 7 p.m., are much bigger than the visiting team. Mark Williams is 7-foot. Paolo Banchero is 6-10. A.J. Griffin is 6-6. Wendall Moore is 6-5.
That's four of the five starters. The Tigers counter with just two starters at 6-8 or taller: Hunter Tyson and P.J. Hall. Ben Middlebrooks (6-10) comes off the bench in a limited role.
“You’re not going to have as much success (inside) as you would against other teams in some ways," Clemson head coach Brad Brownell said. "Then other times I think your kids make plays within the game, and then all of a sudden you’re in front of Mark Williams and you’re not used to shooting over a guy like that."
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Not only does size matter, but that size is talented, and the Blue Devils will make things difficult on both ends of the court for Clemson.
“Guys are going into the basket, you get bumped, you don’t make a shot, you fall down and now Duke’s on a 5 on 4 and you’re in trouble," Brownell said."I just think there are a lot of things that happen within the course of the game where their size, physicality and shot-blocking cause problems and, a lot of times, can lead to good offense.”
Duke is averaging 82.6 points per game, which ranks seventh nationally, while Clemson's giving up 66.8 points per game. One area the Tigers hope to have success in is 3-point shooing.
Clemson drained 12 shots from behind the line in last Saturday's win over Pitt, but the Blue Devils are 24th nationally in 3-point defense. It's going to take a big-time shooting performance, an inspired effort on defense and overcoming Duke's size advantage for the Tigers to walk out of Cameron Indoor with a victory.
"They’re big, strong, physical dudes," Brownell said, "and we’re going to need some guys that can match that strength.”