The Duke Blue Devils ran through their non-conference schedule mostly unscathed minus a 2 point loss to the Gonzaga Bulldogs in the Maui Invitational. Duke is riding a 6 game winning streak and are currently ranked number 1 in the nation. Duke will welcome the Clemson Tigers into Cameron Indoor Stadium to kick-off the their ACC Season schedule.
Clemson is coached by Brad Brownell who is in his 9th season at the helm. Coming into this season Brownell had amassed a 149-113 record and has taken the Tigers to the 2018 Sweet 16, 2011 NCAA Tournament and two NIT appearances. The Tigers finished the 2017–18 season 25–10, 11–7 in ACC play to finish in a four-way tie for third place. They defeated Boston College in the quarterfinals of the ACC Tournament before losing in the semifinals to Virginia. They received an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament where they defeated New Mexico State and Auburn to advance to the Sweet Sixteen where they lost to Kansas in the Sweet Sixteen. The Tigers 25 wins tied the most in program history and their 11 conference wins are the most in program history.
Currently the Tigers sit at 10 - 3, on a 4 game winning streak and looking for a signature win. The last time out they defeated Lipscomb 84-67. Marcquice Reed leads the Tigers in scoring and assists with 20 points and 3.6 assists per game to go along with his 5 rebounds. The leading rebounder for the Tigers is transfer Elijah Thomas who averages 7.6 boards and 13.5 points per game. The Tigers start 4 seniors in Shelton Mitchel, the aforementioned Marcquise Reed and Elijah Thomas and David Skara. The fifth starter, sophomore Aamir Simmsis a 6'7 forward weighing in at 237lbs and averaging 10 points and just under 5 rebounds a game.
9th in the nation in terms of 2 point field goal percentage, the tigers shoot 59.4%, they are an excellent transition offensive team with good dominant guards who, despite being poor 3 point shooters aside from Simms who shoots it at 37%. David Skara leads the team in 3 point shooting for the forward position at 42%. Even with the low team percentage from beyond the arc the Tigers are more than capable of getting hot, especially on drive and dish 3's from the corner.
For the Blue Devils, R.J. Barrett comes in leading the team in scoring as he has all year with 23.8 per game. He also rebounds the basketball at a 6.8 per game clip, the freshman also averages 3.8 assists per contest as well. Zion Williamson leads the Blue Devils in rebounding at 9.4 a game, he also leads the starters in field goal percentage at 65.2% from the field. Williamson averages 19.8 points and 2.3 assists per game. Duke enters the ACC season leading the nation in blocked shots and are 5th in the nation in steals. Also defensively Duke is #2 in the country in Kenpom’s adjusted defensive rating last nigh: #3 in raw defensive rating. Offensively, Duke is ranked 4th in scoring and 14th in offensive rebounding.
The key for Duke, in my opinion, aside from shaking off the rust of having had a 16 day layoff is to keep the Clemson guards out of the paint where they are used to doing out of their damage. Reed and Shelton are the keys to making their offense run efficiently but like most Duke Clemson games there could be an x-factor - that could be Aamir Simms. He is capable of putting points on the board and could be a hard cover. Duke also has to respect the shooting ability of David Skara.