With an NCAA Tournament win under Clemson's belt, now, comes the hard part – beating a top 25 team in West Virginia on shortest of short rest in this tourney format.
Breaking it down starting with the West Virginia personnel…
West Virginia Backcourt
The Mountaineer guards are experienced and big.
Seniors Joe Mazzula (6’2 200, 7.2 points, 4.1 assists per game) and Casey Mitchell (6’4 200, 14.1 points, 3 rebounds per game) anchor West Virginia’s lineup – junior Truck Bryant (6’2 195, 10.9 points, 3.1 assists per game) gives the Mountaineers another guard to break down the opposing defense.
Compared to a Tigers’ crew with two prominent guards under 5’10 – Clemson will be put to the test on both ends.
Clemson’s biggest guard is at 6’5 in Tanner Smith – Demontez Stitt is 6’2 as the only other guard in the mix.
The sizable trio for the Mountaineers account for 46.3 percent of WVU’s scoring.
West Virginia Frontcourt
After outscoring UAB 40-12 in points in the paint, it's pretty obvious that Clemson’s on its game with their big men.
West Virginia’s aren’t the heralded group on the Mountaineers, but have come up big this season.
In top 25 wins this season, junior forward Kevin Jones (6’8 260) averaged a double-double with 18 points and 10.6 rebounds – and has put up double-doubles in four of WVU’s last six games.
Senior John Flowers is the other main contributor in the paint averaging 9.6 points, 6.5 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game.
The Mountaineers rank ninth in the nation in offensive rebounds per game and 53rd overall in rebounds.
Bob Huggins has coached the Mountaineers for four years now and has a 100-40 record with West Virginia (690-251 overall with stints at Kansas State, Cincinnati, Akron and Walsh). Huggins has a 26-18 NCAA Tournament record including 14-4 in opening tourney games.
For Brownell, the fourth time was the charm Tuesday night with his first NCAA Tournament win as he enters the uncharted waters of a second NCAA Tourney game against Huggins' Mountaineers.
The Tigers and Mountaineers had two common opponents in Miami and Seton Hall – Clemson going 3-0 with a 64-58 victory over Seton Hall in the Paradise Jam in the Virgin Islands and the series sweep of Miami by seven in Littlejohn and four in Miami.
West Virginia dropped an early season shootout at Miami, 79-76, where the Hurricanes overcame a 13-point deficit in the second half. At home against Seton Hall, West Virginia held the Pirates to under 30 percent shooting in a 56-44 win.
Scouting West Virginia
West Virginia uses their size on defense to physically beat-up teams, but in the open court, they are vulnerable, which makes that offensive rebounding stat important.
Last week at the Big East Tournament, they exited in the first round by lower seed Marquette taking them out 67-61.
Marquette was able to put West Virginia on its heels defensively off missed shots – repeatedly cutting through the Mountaineers’ transition defense like it wasn’t there. Huggins’ crew wants to either make shots or get back to get set defensively.
Clemson has to attack the basket in transition, and the easy baskets will come. Let WVU get back and they can lock down with a mix of man-to-man and 1-3-1 zone throughout the game.
On the flip side, Clemson is 30th in the nation in steals against a Mountaineers’ squad that doesn’t turn it over often. WVU is 31st nationally in assist-to-turnover rate at 1.25 and 12.1 turnovers per game.
With the amount of ballhandlers they have, West Virginia is able to run motion a la Clemson to either attack the basket or kick out for the open 3-pointer.
They have a lot options offensively, but are a bit inconsistent. Against Marquette, they had runs of 9-0 and 10-0 coupled with an over nine minute field goal drought that extended into the final minutes of the game.
The experience of three seniors who play major minutes for the Mountaineers – coming off a Final Four run in 2010 – is an unquestionable edge too in key stretches. With some confidence coming off the 70-52 win over UAB, Clemson will try to survive and advance starting at 12:15 ET in Tampa.
Key Stats and Records
Neutral Site Records: Clemson – 4-2; WVU – 4-3
Close Games (within 6 points): Clemson – 2-6; WVU – 5-6
OT Games: Clemson – 1-1; WVU – 0-0
Points Per Possession (national rank in parentheses): Clemson – 1.04 (121); WVU – 1.09 (44)
Offensive Rebounds Per Game: 11.2 (177); WVU – 14.4 (9).
Assists Per Game: Clemson - 13 (158); WVU – 15.1 (38)
Steals Per Game: Clemson - 8.1 (36); WVU – 4.6 (327).
Turnover Percentage: Clemson - 20.3 (156); WVU - 18.9 (243).
West Virginia O vs. Clemson D (points per game): WVU 69.5 (149) vs. 60.7 (19) – Clemson.
Clemson O vs. West Virginia D (points per game): Clemson 68.3 (185) vs. 64.1 (67)