The fifth seeded Duke Blue Devils will square off with the 12th seed Clemson Tigers in the second round of the ACC Tournament Tuesday afternoon from the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. The Tigers went 6-12 in ACC play this season, and the Blue Devils posted an 11-7 conference record. Duke recorded a narrow 64-62 home win over Clemson last month.
The Clemson Tigers played outstanding defense in their 75-61 win over N.C. State in the first round of the ACC Tournament on Tuesday afternoon. The Tigers shot 42% from the field and held the Wolfpack to just 38% shooting. Jaron Blossomgame was tremendous, scoring 22 points on a 9 for 17 clip from the field. The senior forward has been very consistent this season, however he scored a season-low seven points in the loss to Duke last month, and is now averaging 17.3 points per game. Shelton Mitchell stepped up with a huge performance in the win over NC State on Tuesday, recording 22 points along with six assists. The sophomore guard has now scored 14 or more points in five straight games and scored a team-high 23 points in the loss to Duke. Mitchell is now averaging 10.5 points per game. The Tigers have played ranked teams very tough this season, losing to Duke by only two points on the road. They have now won three straight games and are ranked 35th overall in Ken Pomeroy’s College Basketball Rankings.
Clemson is now scoring an average of 75.1 points per game, ranking them 130th overall, and are shooting 45.3% from the field. The Tigers are strong defensively, allowing an average of 72.1 points per game, placing them 149th overall.
The 14th ranked Duke Blue Devils did not finish their regular season off on a positive note, losing three out of their final four games, which included losses to Syracuse, Miami and an 90-83 road loss to the Tar Heels in the final game. Duke had won seven consecutive games before losing three out of their last four games. Luke Kennard saved the day in the close 64-62 home win over Clemson last month, posting 25 points, which included a 4 for 8 performance from three-point range. The sophomore guard is red-hot, reaching at least 20 points in five out of his last eight games, and is now averaging a team-leading 20.1 points per game. Jayson Tatum was not at his best in the win over the Tigers, going 3 for 8 from the field for nine points. The freshman forward had an outstanding season, leading the Blue Devils in rebounding with 7.3 per game, and is second in team scoring with 16 points per game. Duke is very dangerous offensively and defends the three well, holding opponents to just 30% shooting from beyond the arc. The Blue Devils have been inconsistent at times however when this team is on they are tough to beat.
The Blue Devils feature a powerful offense that is now averaging 80.5 points per game, ranking them 28th in the Country, and are shooting 47.3% as a team. Duke also plays tight defense, conceding an average of 69.1 points per game, positioning them 96th overall.
I am siding with Clemson in this contest. Clemson is a better team than their record indicates as they have played several strong teams very close this season, losing by just two points at Duke, three points to the Tar Heels, and only two points to Florida State to name a few. Clemson held Duke to 42% shooting and even out-rebounded them in the 64-62 loss last month. Jaron Blossomgame and Shelton Mitchell are red-hot right now, and the Tigers are averaging a solid 78 points over their last three games. Duke did not finish the season strong, losing three out of their last four while Clemson is riding a ton of momentum winning three straight games and I think they are the play in this one, 70-65.