Time: 9:05 p.m. ET
TV: Fox Sports South
— Chris Mack (@CoachChrisMack) January 27, 2021
Vegas Line: Clemson -1.5
The Louisville men’s basketball team heads on the road for a midweek matchup with Clemson on Wednesday night. Louisville was previously scheduled to have the week off before Saturday’s opponent, Boston College, paused for COVID-19 concerns. Clemson was scheduled to play BC on Wednesday, so Louisville stepped in. The Cards and Tigers were initially supposed to play during the last week of the regular season.
Clemson came off a virus-related pause of its own and has not won since. The Tigers have lost three straight games after starting the season 9-1. After giving up more than 75 points just twice in the first ten games, Clemson has allowed more than 80 points in the three double digits losses to Virginia, Georgia Tech and Florida State.
Clemson has arguably the deepest rotation in the ACC. No one on the team averages more than 26 minutes per game and 11 different players average double-digit minutes a night. Aamir Simms leads the Tigers in both points and rebounds.
In spite of its recent defensive struggles, Clemson still poses a tough matchup for this Louisville offense. They have some length, but are not overly big compared to some of the other teams that have troubled Louisville. They protect the rim at a high rate and do not send their opponents to the free throw line very often. Where they have been beaten is at the three-point line. During the three game losing streak Clemson has given up a total of 43 made threes on 81 attempts, good for 53.1 percent.
The three-point shot, though, has not been a huge part of Louisville’s game at all this season. The Cards have not made more than 8 attempts from long range in a single game and have rarely shot more than 20. Only 23.2 percent of Louisville’s points come from the three-point line, good for 324th most in the nation according to KenPom.
The matchup to watch might be Simms against Jae’Lyn Withers. Withers has put up at least 13 points and 7 rebounds in four of his past five games. Simms is probably the better player right now, but if Louisville can neutralize the Clemson frontcourt they will be in great shape.
Regarding the backcourt, Clemson shoots and makes a lot of threes, but the biggest challenge for Louisville could be on the offensive end. Carlik Jones and David Johnson have penetrated at will for the majority of the season. When they have struggled is when the opposing team is forcing turnovers. Clemson has some size to match the Louisville backcourt and forces the most turnovers in the ACC. Holding on to the ball will be a big point of emphasis on Wednesday.
Clemson’s COVID-19 break was only 11 days, but it is obvious that it has had an effect on their program. They have lost to some good teams, but these games have not even been close. This is still a team that was ranked highly less than a month ago and looked like it would compete for a top-4 spot in the ACC. Things are bound to turn around sometime soon.
Louisville has just one quadrant one win on the year. Despite a 10-3 record. Most bracketologists have the Cards as a lower end at-large team according to seeding. Wednesday night is the first of many quad 1 opportunities in the coming weeks. Louisville has got to take advantage of them, especially against a reeling Clemson squad.
Louisville 66 Clemson 63