Late Breaking Update: Today's game vs Clemson has been delayed by two hours. Game time will now be 2pm. Doors to the arena will still open at 11am, limited concessions are available and exit and re-entry to the arena will be allowed. The only explanation available at this time for the delay is for "team safety protocols".
While basketball fans have started to get accustomed to games being played later than they were originally scheduled, we get a treat today, with UofL taking on Clemson far earlier than was originally scheduled. In the original schedule, this game would have taken place almost a month and a half from now, on February 21st. Instead, it will be contested today at noon.
There have been a lot of role adjustments in ACC women's basketball in the past couple of years. Notre Dame isn't a national power, Georgia Tech is pretty good, and Clemson isn't in the bottom ranks of the conference. Indeed, the Tigers are in the top half of the conference standings...not bad.
Like many high end teams, including UofL of course, Clemson's non-conference schedule has been nothing to write home about. Charlotte, and maybe College of Charleston provided the only real tests there. But as we start working our way into conference play, we start to see what these teams are really about.
Clemson does have a trio of conference losses. The loss to Georgia Tech is understandable, as mentioned, GT has put together a fine team in Atlanta. The losses to Pitt and Miami however, suggest that the Tigers may have a little ways to go before their evolution into a top team is complete.
They do have a couple of good wins, however. A win over Notre Dame is good, even with the aforementioned non-national-power status of Notre Dame these days. A win over Florida State turns heads even though there is some degree of uncertainty with FSU. An interim head coach for the year and fewer games played will do that. A win over Virginia goes in the win column, but is certainly not a statement win.
Kendall Spray gets much of the attention on this Clemson team, and she is an outside threat without question, more than tripling the number of 3 point goals made over anyone else on the team. She is not, however, the leading scorer on the team overall. Gabby Elliott and Delicia Washington both contribute more to the big number on the scoreboard. Elliott and Washington are both 5'10" guards. Spray does lead the team in steals, though not by an overwhelming margin - 17 vs Destiny Thomas's (5'10" guard) 14, and Nique Cherry's (6'1" forward) 10.
As a team, Clemson does stack up well on the defensive stats, forcing more turnovers, pilfering more steals, and stuffing more blocks that their opponents. None of these are runaway numbers, but it shows the Clemson discipline and quality.
On those blocks, well over half of them are thanks to 6'4" center Tylar Bennett. The Cards have had some head-scratching lay-up missed in some games this year, maybe trying to take it up against Bennett inside isn't the best idea. To compare, Bennett's 27 is well above the best Cards blocking stat - E Balogun's 19.
I expect a guard focused game today, given the general propensities of both teams. Will the Cards try to shift some of that focus to Olivia Cochran and Liz Dixon? Perhaps, if they can overwhelm Tylar Bennett, there could be a strategy there. Overall, I think the strategy is to take advantage of the depths of guard play for the Cards, wear down the Clemson squad inside the arc, and make sure Spray doesn't get a good look from beyond the arc.
Check this one out on the ACC Network, on linear and streaming. We get Pam Ward and LaChina Robinson on the call, both excellent in their roles. If you're not near a TV, you can of course check out Nick Curran's great radio call on 790 AM in the Louisville area. Tip is at noon at the KFC Yum! Center.
Cardinal Couple Radio Hour
Jared was being Mr. Bankerman again yesterday for the Cardinal Couple Radio Hour and podcast, though he did chime in through the magic of Skype chat, as he is wont to do. Daryl, Case, Paulie and myself were all on the call, though, and we had plenty to talk about, with three games to recap in UT Martin, Bellarmine, and Virginia Tech, as well as previewing today's Clemson game.
Good fun, as always, check it out below!