IOWA (4-0) VS. CLEMSON (4-1)
DATE: November 25, 2022
TIME: 6:00 PM CT
LOCATION: Northwest Florida State College Arena, Niceville, FL
Television: CBS Sports Network
RADIO: Learfield Sports
STREAMING: CBS Sports Online
LINE: Iowa -8
KENPOM: Iowa -8 (Iowa 76% winning probability)
While basking in the glow of a Big Ten West title, enjoy early evening basketball as the Hawkeyes take on Clemson in the semifinals of the Emerald Coast Classic. Tipoff is at 6:00 p.m. Central, so you might miss the first part while the football game wraps up. It’s okay, we won’t tell. The winner gets the winner of TCU-Cal (almost certainly TCU because Cal is terrible at God level) played after that game on Saturday afternoon.
Clemson will be led by longtime head coach Brad Brownell, who was hired 26 days after Fran McCaffery was announced in Iowa. His results were Extremely Clemson: Three tournament appearances in 12 seasons, with a trip to the Sweet 16 in 2018. The Tigers have finished over .500 in all but one of those 12 seasons, but within three games of .500 in six of them. It’s not really a surprise that Brownell’s seat is warm this season.
So far this season, Clemson has shipped four double-digit margin cupcakes and lost to rivals South Carolina in a game in which they averaged a lazy 0.83 points per possession. South Carolina followed that win with losses to Colorado State, Davidson and Furman. South Carolina is bad. You shouldn’t lose to South Carolina.
Brownell certainly has a distinctive playstyle: offense runs at a medium pace, defense is built to fill lanes and extend enemy possession to the end of the shot clock. His good teams are built on a global defense: Clemson has won 20 games under Brownell four times, his defense has been in the top 20 for efficiency. Every other season it’s been somewhere between 33 and 101. This season so far it’s 69th place. That should be nice for Iowa, especially considering Clemson struggled to defend the perimeter; Opponents shoot 37.5% of three, and none of these opponents are currently ranked in the Kenpom Top 125.
The big story so far this season for Clemson has been the status of junior center PJ Hall (6’10”, 245). Hall was probably Clemson’s best player last season but had foot surgery after the end of last season and then suffered a patellar injury in July. As a result, he is not in the starting XI and has played limited minutes in four games. He only played 13 minutes against Loyola (Maryland) on Monday night. When healthy, Hall is a fiver who has shot 55 percent of them two and 31 percent from three last year, but that seems like a big “if” right now Clemson has started second center Ben Middlebrooks (6’10”, 240) in his absence, but Middlebrooks is very much a placeholder : He has a total of 7 points in five games and has never played more than 11 minutes in a game.
Instead, Clemson has opted for mostly small-ball, with elder power forward Hunter Tyson (6’8″, 220) and second power forward Ian Schieffelin (6’7″, 230) playing together up front. Both players are solid rebounders, with Tyson hitting double-doubles against The Citadel (19 points, 13 rebounds, hey Austin Ash, how are you?) and Bellarmine (11 and 10). Tyson also averages nearly five three-point attempts per game and shoots 33 percent if you’ve had any misunderstandings about his role. Schieffelin was a monster off the bench against The Citadel, scoring 20 points and 14 boards, but hasn’t been as effective since. Newcomers Chauncey Wiggins (6’10”, 205) and RJ Godfrey (6’7″, 225) got some runs in the Loyola blowout but weren’t seen much otherwise.
Clemson runs a three-man backcourt led by junior point guard Chase Hunter (6’3″, 205). Hunter has been red hot so far this season, shooting sixty-eight percent from threes and averaging 16 points per game. Wing forward Brevin Galloway (6’3″, 210) hasn’t been as effective from deep and has only made 5 attempts out of 18 this season but gets into the lane and pulls a lot of fouls. Shooting guard Alex Hemenway (6’4″, 195) is a pure perimeter shooter but has made 48% on a team high of 25 attempts this season. Rookies Dillon Hunter (6’3″, 195) and Josh Beadle (6′ 3″, 185) offer bank depth, but neither was productive.
So here’s the thing: Even though Hall is healthy and can last 30+ minutes, Clemson isn’t deep. The backcourt is basically three guys playing for 30 minutes with some help from some warm bodies; The forecourt isn’t much better. The whole Brownell slow-tempo defense isn’t just a style for this squad. It’s a necessity. And Iowa is the second fastest offensive team in the nation. The slow possession defensive system is also Shaheen Holloway’s calling card, and Iowa pulled her into a 70-ball possession game on her home court. If Hall can’t last 30 minutes, Clemson will also struggle to close the lane against a larger, lankier, and deeper front line in Iowa. Iowa should go to the Emerald Coast and drag Clemson into deep water.