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Analysis: How can Clemson slow down Arizona?

Toby Corriston
Clemson center PJ Hall jumps around a Baylor player sprawled on the floor as he added on to Clemson’s lead with a finger-roll layup in the Tigers’ second round matchup in the NCAA Tournament.

Coming off of an emotional win against Baylor, Clemson (23-11, 11-9 ACC) will be squaring off against another formidable opponent Thursday night in No. 2-seeded Arizona (27-8, 15-5 PAC 12).

The Wildcats are arguably one of the best teams in the nation at the moment, finishing the season ranked ninth in the AP Poll. This game, however, is not Clemson’s first rodeo with a top-ranked team.

One of the Tigers’ biggest advantages in this matchup is their experience against top-ranked teams during the regular season. Clemson faced off against numerous tournament teams in both their in and out-of-conference schedules, playing teams such as UNC, Duke, Alabama, South Carolina, NC State and Virginia, most notably upsetting then-ranked No. 3 North Carolina in Chapel Hill last month.

Although Arizona also faced a tough schedule, the Wildcats played most of their top opponents near the start of the season. Their out-of-conference schedule consisted of teams such as Duke, Michigan State and Purdue, taking down the first two away from home.

However, once their conference schedule came about, the quality of competition took a dip. The only tournament teams they met in conference play were Colorado, Washington State and Oregon, all of whom have been eliminated through the first two rounds.

When it comes to play on the hardwood, Arizona is exceptional in almost every aspect. It has a high-powered offense fueled by star players such as Caleb Love and Kylan Boswell. Under head coach Tommy Lloyd’s fast-paced play style, they are averaging 87.6 points per game – 10.2 more than Clemson’s 77.4.

The Wildcats’ offensive possessions average 15.2 seconds, which ranks them amongst the top 10 teams in that category, according to CBS Sports.

Arizona is especially known for how efficiently it utilizes the team’s short offensive possessions. According to, the Wildcats rank as the 13th most efficient offense, with a 1.146 efficiency rating, compared to Clemson, who is 31st with a 1.111 rating.

Despite the uneven statistical matchup, numbers don’t necessarily matter as much as they would in a regular-season matchup in the NCAA Tournament. When Clemson matched up against New Mexico and Baylor, both opponents were among the top 3-point shooting teams in the nation. Opposing teams’ 3-point success did not faze the Tigers, as New Mexico went 3-for-23 from behind the arc, and Baylor went 6-for-24.

If Clemson can neutralize Arizona’s 3-point attack, the Wildcats will be forced to rely heavily on their star center, Oumar Ballo. He has averaged a double-double over the season, posting up 12.9 points per game in addition to 10 rebounds.

Ballo holds the height advantage, as his 7-foot frame towers over Clemson’s tallest player, Hall, who stands at 6-foot-10.5.

Though Ballo has been having a spectacular year with Arizona, his matchup against Hall could go in Clemson’s favor. Ballo’s biggest weakness is his quickness and ability to guard an athletic and dynamic scoring center, which perfectly describes the Tigers’ star big man.

In Arizona’s most recent tournament game against Dayton, Ballo was tasked with guarding Dayton’s center, DaRon Holmes II, who proved to be a matchup nightmare. Ballo ended up playing 90 seconds in the final 10 minutes of the second-round matchup, as Arizona used a small ball lineup.

Holmes has a similar play style to Hall, regarding his ability to stretch the court with his athleticism and shooting. If Clemson can force the same trouble Dayton did, forcing Arizona to use a smaller lineup, that can open up opportunities in the paint, which is where Clemson thrives with Ian Schieffelin, RJ Godfrey and PJ Hall.

Thursday night’s game will be an entertaining matchup between No. 6 seed Clemson and No. 2 seed Arizona and a coaching chess match between Brad Brownell and Tommy Lloyd. The game will tip off at 7:09 p.m. ET.

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About the Contributors
Jose Zarraluqui, Senior Reporter
Toby Corriston, Asst. Photo Editor
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