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NCAA: Ranked teams face off

Posted on January 22nd, 2010

There are a couple big college basketball games that interest me this weekend, and while the Texas game is one of them, it’s the Duke/Clemson matchup that has me the most excited. No. 6 at No. 16 is going to showcase two strong teams with very similar records, both coming off nasty losses looking to rebound and make a statement against another ranked team at the same time.

We’re more than halfway through the regular season now, so teams like Duke are not only looking to collect as many wins as they can, but position themselves as a serious contender for a #1 (or at least #2) seed come tournament selection time. Clemson sits right below them in the ACC standings in fourth, and would love nothing more than to leap over the Blue Devils. This game, at home, will be their best and perhaps only chance left this year to make that happen.

Duke, though, has the edge here at the offensive end of the court. They average a good 7 points more than Clemson, while both teams allow just 62 points per game. But here’s the most telling statistic during the pre-game research. Clemson has already lost a game at home, but Duke is yet to win one. That’s right, they’re 0-3. For all the statistics on points, rebounds, etc… it’s tough to look past the biggest one – the only one that matters – win/loss record.

The key for Clemson, of course, will just be to contain at least two of the big 3 “S’s” in Scheyer, Smith and Sigler, all averaging between 16 and 19 points per game. After them, the next closest is about 7. Clemson spreads the offense around more as a team, but lacks that one or two clutch option you can trust with the ball at the end of a tight game.

Last time these two teams met was at Duke just a couple weeks ago, and Clemson got crushed by more than 20 points. Home court makes a difference, sure, but not that much of a difference.

I expect a very close line, like Duke by 1 1/2, and I think Duke’s positives outweigh Clemson’s positives by just a slight of a margin. Yes, Duke is winless on the road (and hard to believe this is only their 4th road game of the year), but this team is too talented to keep sliding away from home. They know how to beat Clemson and they’ll be confident and hungry going into this game. I think both teams will be focused and execute their offenses well, but in the end Duke will pull this one out and cover the spread.