After sweeping the first five games of the season, some being closer than expected, Clemson Men’s Basketball steps up in competition as they travel to Tuscaloosa to take on a top-20 Alabama Crimson Tide (5-1) on the Tide’s home turf in the ACC/SEC Challenge.
On paper (or screen), this matchup doesn’t look favorable for the Tigers as many of the advantages Clemson has against most opponents don’t exist against the Tide.
Most notably the Crimson Tide is one of the best offensive rebounding teams in the nation early on in the season, gets to the free throw line early and often (and makes them), is second in the nation in effective field goal percentage and third in the nation in three-point field goal percentage.
Alabama also plays much faster than the Tigers, so in that respect, it’ll be a clash of styles in Coleman Coliseum.
Clemson improved their offensive rebounding profile against Alcorn State, but that very well could be due to the level of competition.
The Tide can rival or even surpass the Tigers in height depending on the lineup on the court.
Offensively Alabama is led by 6’1 shooting guard Mark Sears, who’s averaging 20.3 points, 5 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 1.3 steals while shooting 61% from the field, 54.5% from three and 86% from the line.
Point guard Aaron Estrada has shot it well also, and averages 17.3 points on 54.9% field goal accuracy, including 51.9% behind the arc.
Inside, the Tide are led by 6’11, 230 pound senior Grant Nelson, who chips in 14.3 points and leads Alabama with 6.8 boards per contest.
Off the bench, 6’10 Mohamed Wague has been relentless on the boards on both ends of the court, averaging 3.3 rebounds in just over 10 minutes per game.
The trait that stands out about this Alabama team is their relentless work on the offensive boards, led by the guards, Sears and Estrada, which could lead to second chance points by the Tide.
If you’re a KenPom.com acolyte, he has this Alabama team ranked 8th and by most measures they are a top 15ish team and the toughest the Tigers have faced to date.
Clemson Men’s Basketball faces tough matchup in Tuscaloosa
This has all the markings of a game the Tigers will struggle in as it’s on the road against a top-15 team that plays fast, shoots well and rebounds relentlessly.
My concerns with Clemson in this scenario are obvious and even though we’re only five games into the schedule you may be tired of hearing them.
P.J. Hall has to stay out of foul trouble for Clemson to have a realistic chance and the Tigers will have to do something they haven’t done to date: be more than mediocre in rebounding against a good team.
Clemson doesn’t get to the line often and add in the fact that the Tigers are shooting only 60% on free throws away from Littlejohn and the Tigers could struggle to score.
Alabama is due for a regression on their 3 point shooting, but I suspect it will be good enough in their home gym.
Too much has to go right for the Tigers to win this game and the odds are stacked against them in Tuscaloosa.
Alabama wins and covers the 9.5 point spread.
Game odds refresh periodically and are subject to change.