Louisville Cardinals (16-3, 7-1) vs. Clemson Tigers (10-8, 4-4)
Game Time: 2:04 p.m.
Location: KFC Yum Center: Louisville, Ky.
Television: Regional Sports Networks (Fox Sports South in Louisville)
Announcers: Tom Werme (play-by-play) and Mike Gminski (analyst)
Favorite: Louisville by 11
Officials: Mike Eades, Mike Roberts, Tommy Morrissey
Series: Louisville leads, 6-2
Last Meeting: Louisville won 56-55 on Feb. 1, 2019
Probable Starting Lineups:
One of the hottest teams from the middle chunk of the ACC, Clemson enters Saturday afternoon’s game at Louisville winners of four of its last five. Included in that run is a stunning upset over then No. 3 Duke, and a road win over North Carolina that marked the program’s first win in 60 tries in Chapel Hill. The Tigers’ lone loss since the calendar flipped to 2020 was a competitive 60-54 setback at NC State a week ago. They bounced back from that performance with a 71-68 home win over Wake Forest on Wednesday.
Brad Brownell has a slew of guards at his disposal, but the guy who makes his team go is one who has a bit more size. Aamir Simms is one of the most unique big men in the country, and he enters Saturday leading Clemson in scoring (14.4) and rebounding (7.7), and ranking second in assists (2.4). Simms is also the first Clemson player in over two decades to post at least 20 points, five rebounds, and five assists in consecutive games, a feat accomplished in the Tigers’ back-to-back wins over North Carolina and Duke.
As Clemson's small-ball 5/offensive fulcrum, Aamir Simms has turned into a match-up nightmare in the ACC: 40 3P%, 60 FG% at the rim, 19% assist rate (4 assists per 40 mins in ACC play)— Brian Geisinger (@bgeis_bird) January 15, 2020
Simms did absolutely mean things to Duke, UNC and NC State — a look at his backdoor passing pic.twitter.com/RmtSWT4OWF
Aamir Simms ladies and gentlemen.. pic.twitter.com/cvBKE1ZELv— ClemsonEditz (@ClemsonEditz_) March 17, 2018
As impressive as Simms has been in conference play, Brownell knows that he’ll need more than just a big game from his star to beat a team like Louisville.
“Aamir is going to have to have a very good game and that won’t be enough,” Brownell said during his weekly press conference. “We’ll have to have several guys play well. It might be the most talented team we’ve played this year. Duke is very good as well, but these guys have tremendous depth, David Johnson off the bench is a pro and there were times in the Duke game he looked like the best player on the floor. We’re going to have to play one of our best games of the season to win this one.”
One of those guys Brownell is talking about is Tevin Mack, who has established himself as Clemson’s top backcourt scoring threat. The Alabama grad transfer — who began his college career at Texas — mysteriously did not start for the first time all season Wednesday night against Wake Forest, and scored just seven points over 20 minutes, his second fewest of the season. Assuming he’s back to playing regular minutes on Saturday, the 6’6 versatile scorer will be a solid challenge for whomever is checking him.
To try and get away from the four guards plus Simms lineup, Brownell has been giving more minutes to 6’8 sophomore forward Hunter Tyson (definitely not Tyson Hunter) in recent weeks. Tyson responded on Wednesday by scoring a career-high 21 points on 9-of-13 shooting against Wake Forest. Tyson can knock down the outside shot, which creates more space for Simms and the Tiger guards to operate.
The size of Clemson’s guards has the potential to once again be an issue for Louisville’s backcourt on both ends of the floor. Clyde Trapp (6’4), Curran Scott (6’4) and John Newman III (6’5) all have at least a couple of inches on Darius Perry, Fresh Kimble and Ryan McMahon. Freshman Al-Amir Dawes, who receives significant minutes off the bench is 6’2. All of these Tiger guards are solid. None of them are spectacular.
As has been the case more times than not under Brownell, Clemson is a team that has relied on its defense for much of the season. The Tigers rank 37th in adjusted defensive efficiency, and despite playing at a fairly glacial pace, they’re one of the best teams in the ACC when it comes to forcing turnovers (75th in D-I in turnover percentage).
The final things to know about Clemson are that they are not a great rebounding team, and they are an atrocious free-throw shooting team, especially at the moment. Their season average of 65.5 percent from the charity stripe is the second worst in the ACC, and they have made only 27 of 63 freebies (43 percent) over their past three games.
—Louisville has matched its best ACC start in its six years in the conference with a 7-1 league record. The Cards also started 7-1 last season.
—Louisville is 14-0 when leading at halftime this season, and 2-3 when trailing at the break.
—Clemson defeated No. 3 Duke on Jan. 14 for its first win over an AP top-3 ranked opponent since North Carolina on Feb. 18, 2001. The Tigers have won four of their last five games overall.
—At halftime of Saturday’s game, Louisville will be honoring its 1974-75 Final Four team. The current Cardinals will also be wearing throwback uniforms to honor the ‘75 squad.
—Louisville has blocked at least one shot in 321 consecutive games.
—Jordan Nwora enters Saturday ranked second in the ACC in scoring at 19.1 ppg.
—Clemson’s Aamir Simms is the first Tiger player over the last 20 seasons to post 20 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists in consecutive games; he did it in wins over North Carolina and Duke.
—Louisville has a 51-16 record in its conference home games over the last eight years.
—Clemson’s win over Duke last week made Brad Brownell the all-time winningest coach in program history.
—Louisville enters Saturday ranked eighth in the nation in field goal percentage defense (.372), 18th in three-point field goal percentage (.382), 23rd in scoring margin (+12.2), 38th in scoring defense (62.3) and 40th in rebound margin (+5.8).
—In its last six games, Louisville has made 42.5 percent of its three-pointers (48-of-113).
—Louisville has made nine or more three-pointers in a game 10 times this season.
—Chris Mack is 2-0 all-time in games against Clemson, beating the Tigers once during his time at Xavier as well as last season’s game with U of L.
—Louisville is 5-0 all-time in home games against Clemson.
—Louisville has a 41-13 record during the month of January over the last five years.
—Clemson has won 24 consecutive games when holding its opponent to fewer than 50 points.
—This is just the third time in the last 24 years Clemson has at least four wins over ACC schools from the state of North Carolina. The Tigers are currently 4-1 against said schools.
—Louisville has won 161 consecutive games when holding an opponent under 50 points.
—Louisville has won 152 consecutive games when scoring at least 85 points in regulation.
—Louisville is one of just four schools which have won 20 or more games on the court in each of the last 18 seasons (also Kansas, Duke and Gonzaga).
Ken Pomeroy Prediction: Louisville 69, Clemson 57