The Citadel (3-7, 0-1 SoCon) will open up the new year with its final nonconference test before beginning SoCon play in earnest as the Bulldogs face off against ACC foe and Palmetto State rival Clemson (7-4) in a 4 p.m. contest on New Year's Day.
The Bulldogs and Tigers will be meeting for the 83rd time on Tuesday afternoon, with the Tigers holding a commanding 60-22 all-time edge, including having won the past 14 games between the two teams. Last year the Tigers went to McAlister Field House and handed the Cadets a 73-50 setback on Nov. 16, 2011.
The Bulldogs enter Tuesday afternoon's clash coming off a loss to another ACC foe. The Bulldogs dropped a 73-41 contest in Atlanta to Georgia Tech back on Dec. 22. The Tigers come in to Tuesday's clash already having posted a 4-1 record against teams from the Palmetto State this season, including having knocked off The Citadel's fellow SoCon rival, Furman (72-55) at Timmons Arena back on Nov. 16.
The Citadel will mark the third straight opponent from the Palmetto State that the Tigers have faced, most recently disposing of South Carolina State (77-41) back on Dec. 23. They dropped their only game to a team from the Sandlapper State back on Dec. 19 with a 69-46 loss at Coastal Carolina. Additionally, Clemson has also knocked off in-state opponents Presbyterian (77-44) and South Carolina (64-55) this season.
The Bulldogs enter Tuesday afternoon's clash looking to snap a six-game losing streak dating back to a 92-50 win over Union College of Kentucky back on Nov. 17.
The Bulldogs enter the contest against the Tigers continuing to be led by one of the best big men in the Southern Conference, Mike Groselle (15.2 PPG, 8.2 RPG). Groselle, a senior from Plano, Texas, enters the New Year's Day clash ranking sixth in Southern Conference scoring while ranking second in the league in rebounding.
Groselle has scored in double digits in nine of 10 games this season for the Bulldogs, with the only time he was held under double figures being the last time out against Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets were able to limit Groselle to just nine points. He has a couple of 20-point performances on the season, including a 21-point effort in the Bulldogs' season-opening win over VMI. Groselle posts a 54.6 percent shooting clip from the field this season, which ranks second in the SoCon.
Groselle enjoyed a strong performance against Clemson last season, posting 16 points in the 73-50 setback.
Joining Groselle in the Bulldogs' starting lineup in the front court will be Stephen Elmore (3.5 PPG, 4.4 RPG). Elmore, a redshirt senior from New York City, has been a nice role player underneath the basket this season for Chuck Driesell's Bulldogs.
Elmore enjoyed his top performances of the season in each of the past two contests, contributing eight points in losses to both St. Bonaventure and Georgia Tech. He also contributed 10 boards in the loss at Georgia Tech the last time out and nearly completed the double-double effort against the Bulldogs.
The trio in The Citadel backcourt for Tuesday afternoon's clash will include Ashton Moore (7.8 PPG, 1.7 APG), Marshall Harris III (5.7 PPG, 4.8 APG) and Matt Van Scyoc (10.0 PPG, 4.4 RPG).
The Bulldogs have gotten nice production out of their backcourt at times this season, especially Van Scyoc, who is a 6-6 wing guard that ranks second on the club in his first season with the program and is making a strong case for All-Freshman honors through his first 10 games in The Citadel Blue.
Van Scyoc has started every game so far in his young Bulldog career, and he's the team's leading perimeter shooter, having connected on a team-best 21 triples on the season. He is shooting a blistering 41.3 percent (21-of-53) from three-point range this season. Van Scyoc has enjoyed six double-digit scoring efforts on the season, including a season-high 18 points in his first career game as a Cadet against VMI.
Moore and Harris are veterans that saw plenty of action last season in the Bulldogs' backcourt. Both played in every game as freshmen last season, with 14 starts for Moore and Harris logging 11 in his frosh season.
Harris has started all 11 games this season for the Bulldogs while Moore has logged five starts in 10 games this season for The Citadel. Harris leads the SoCon in APG average so far this season. He enjoyed his best offensive outing of the season against VMI in the win over the Keydets, posting a season- and career-high 19 points. Moore had a season-high 12 points in a loss to Radford earlier this season, which is one of four double-figure scoring efforts for the sophomore in 2012-13.
The Bulldogs will employ the services of three primary players off the bench, including sophomore guard Lawrence Miller (8.6 PPG, 1.0 RPG), redshirt freshman wing guard Daniel Setzekorn (5.1 PPG, 2.3 RPG) and fellow freshman wing guard Quinton Marshall (4.0 PPG, 1.8 RPG).
Miller is the third-leading scorer for the Bulldogs this season and has given The Citadel good offensive production off the bench as of late, with four double-figure scoring performances this season, including a season-high 13 points in a loss to Air Force.
The Bulldogs have struggled finding depth in the frontcourt after a season-ending ankle injury to starting forward C.J. Bray about a month ago in a loss to Charleston Southern. That means for the Bulldogs to have any shot of staying in the contest against Clemson on New Year's Day, the Bulldogs must keep leading scorer Groselle out of foul trouble.
As a team, The Citadel averages 65.2 PPG as a team to rank seventh in the Southern Conference in team scoring average, while ranking 11th out of the 12 SoCon members in scoring defense, allowing 74.8 PPG.
The Bulldogs are a team that has made good in its trips to the charity stripe this season, entering Tuesday's contest ranking second in the Southern Conference in free-throw shooting percentage (72.4 percent, 142-of-196), while posting the league's fifth-best team field goal percentage this season, connecting on 45.2 percent from the field this season.
Clemson comes into Tuesday afternoon's Palmetto State showdown having been led by strong play among its three post performers this season. All three starting bigs for the Tigers enter Tuesday's contest posting double-digit scoring averages.
Leading the charge in the post this season for Brad Brownell's Tigers has been senior center Devin Booker (11.6 PPG, 7.5 RPG). Booker is arguably playing the best basketball of his career and has been at his best when getting the ball in the low post, converting a career-best 57.3 percent of the time on 55-of-96 shooting from the field this season.
The powerful Booker was one of three Tigers in double digits in Clemson's win over the Bulldogs in Charleston last season, leading the club with 14 points. Booker has charted double digits in seven of the Tigers' 11 games this season, including a season-high 18 points in a loss to Purdue in the ACC/Big Ten challenge matchup. He is coming off a 16-point effort the last time out against Coastal Carolina, and he did not play against SC State.
Booker has one double-double this season, which came in a win over Marist as he posted 15 points and 13 boards. His 7.5 RPG ranks him eighth in the Atlantic Coast Conference in rebounding average through the first 11 games.
Teaming with Booker in the paint will be both Milton Jennings (10.7 PPG, 5.7 RPG) and K.J. McDaniels (11.3 PPG, 4.9 RPG). Both Jennings and McDaniels are tremendous athletes and will be tough matchups for the Bulldogs as a result of that athleticism.
McDaniels, who is the team's second-leading scorer, might be one of the best leapers in the Atlantic Coast Conference. McDaniels has 12 double-digit scoring performances in his Clemson career, including logging seven in this his sophomore season.
McDaniels enjoyed his best offensive game of the season and of his career in a win over UTEP, recording a career-high 17 points in that victory.
McDaniels has also been extremely effective on the defensive end with that athleticism this season, swatting away a team-high 23 shots, which ranks him third in the ACC in that category, averaging 2.1 BPG. McDaniels has also proven to be Clemson's top perimeter threat this season; the 6-6 wing guard has connected on 14 triples in 2012-13.
Jennings rounds out the starters underneath the basket, and like Booker, he's looked to for leadership on this Clemson basketball team. He underwent some off-the-court issues earlier in the season, but Jennings has played well as of late.
After going just 2-for-12 from the field in the loss to Coastal Carolina, Jennings rebounded in a big way against South Carolina State the last time out, tying for the team-lead in scoring, with 15 points. Jennings has recorded three double-figure scoring games in the eight he has seen action in this season. He recorded a season-high 18 points in the win over Marist.
The Clemson backcourt will feature Rod Hall (6.4 PPG, 4.2 APG) and freshman point guard Jordan Roper (5.9 RPG, 1.1 RPG). Hall is in his second season as a starter for the Tigers, and has evolved into more than just a defensive, athletic presence on the floor this season for Brownell's Tigers.
Hall's 4.2 APG average ranks him seventh in the ACC in that particular category entering the New Year's Day showdown. Hall has one double-digit scoring performance this season, posting 15 points in the win over arch-rival South Carolina. He also ranks fourth in the ACC in assist-to-turnover ratio at 40-to-17 this season.
Roper is another explosive athletic presence in the Clemson starting five and got his career off to a resounding start with 11 points in his first ever game for the Tigers, which was a season-opening win over Presbyterian. His steal and slam also helped the Tigers cement a 64-55 road win over his hometown college and Clemson arch-rival, the University of South Carolina.
He is one of the Tigers' top perimeter threats, having knocked down 47.8 percent (11-of-23) from three-point range this season, and his 16-point performance in a win over Florida A&M earlier this season represents a career-best effort.
Clemson has not had any problems when looking to its bench so far this season. In fact, the Tigers are outscoring opponents from the bench 233-164 so far this season. Two of the biggest contributors off that Tiger bench are the backcourt tandem of Adonis Filer (7.9 PPG, 3.4 RPG) and DaMarcus Harrison (5.9 PPG, 3.6 RPG).
In the frontcourt off the bench, Clemson looks to newcomers Nnoko Landry (1.4 PPG, 1.1 RPG), Josh Smith (1.0 PPG, 1.0 RPG) and Bernard Sullivan (2.0 PPG, 1.4 RPG).
As a team, the Tigers are a defensive-minded club and that fact is represented by the fact that the Tigers rank last in the ACC in scoring offense (64.4 PPG) and third in scoring defense (55.4 PPG). Clemson also ranks fifth in the league in field goal percentage defense (38.2 percent) and fourth in team SPG (7.5). The Tigers are blocking an ACC-best 5.3 shots per game this season.
This matchup looks a bit one-sided in favor of the Tigers, and the matchup doesn't offer much of a contrast in styles between the two to give the Bulldogs much of a chance of springing the upset on New Year's Day.
Final Score Prediction: Clemson 74, The Citadel 56