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Clemson, SMU clash in NIT semifinals on Tuesday
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Published: 4/1/2014  at  4:33:00 AM
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Postseason NIT - Semifinals
Madison Square Garden - New York, NY
Tip-off: Tuesday, 7:00 p.m. ET
Line: SMU -3.5, Total: 118.5

SMU looks to continue a terrific season under coach Larry Brown as it takes on Clemson in an NIT semifinal on Tuesday night.

The Tigers have played some outstanding basketball the start of March with a 6-2 SU record (3-3-2 ATS), with the losses coming to Pittsburgh and Duke by a combined six points. Junior PF K.J. McDaniels has played very well for the Tigers all year, but had his best game of the season in the NIT opening 78-66 victory against Georgia State when he tallied 30 points, 14 rebounds and five blocks. In the team’s quarterfinal victory against Belmont last Tuesday, Clemson had to overcome a game in which the Bears hit 12 three-pointers while also getting outrebounded 41-32. That non-cover puts the team at 15-13-2 ATS overall this season, including 6-4 ATS versus non-conference teams. The Tigers are also 3-1-1 ATS on a neutral court, and 9-2 ATS in a non-home game after a non-conference game in the past two seasons. SMU was the biggest snub from the NCAA Tournament this season, but has bounced back nicely in the NIT. The Mustangs limped to the finish line with three straight losses to close out the season, but won their first two NIT games by an average of 13.5 PPG. However, SMU had to battle for a tough victory against California in Wednesday's quarterfinals, prevailing by a score of 67-65. While they were able to dominate the glass in the game (35-22), the Mustangs struggled to keep the Bears guards out of the lane. SG Markus Kennedy had a big night for SMU in that victory, finishing with a double-double of 19 points and 10 rebounds. Although the team didn't cover the 8-point spread against Cal, it is still a strong 19-12 ATS (61%) on the season). This record includes a 7-5 ATS mark outside of conference play, but the club is just 1-3 ATS on a neutral court. However, the team is also 14-7 ATS (67%) versus poor pressure defensive teams (forcing 14 or less TO per game) this season.

Clemson has really struggled on the offensive end of the court this season ranking 265th in the nation in shooting percentage (42.4% FG) and 313th in scoring (63.7 PPG). However, this has been one of the elite teams in the all of Division I on defense, allowing only 58.2 PPG (4th in nation). They have been even better defending the three-point shot, ranking first among all Division I teams by allowing opponents to connect on only 28% of their three-point attempts. This could be the most complete defense in the country, as the team blocks 6.1 shots per game, ranking 8th in the nation in that category. PF K.J. McDaniels (17.2 PPG, 7.1 RPG, 85% FT) gets a lot of talk for his offensive ability, but he is a big-time shot blocker as well with 2.8 BPG. C Landry Nnoko (6.4 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 55 % from the field) is another player that makes it very difficult for opponents to finish at the rim (2.0 BPG). PG Rod Hall (9.4 PPG, 3.9 APG, 2.5 RPG) and SF Damarcus Harrison (7.7 PPG, 2.7 RPG) are both guys that will be counted upon to score some points as the Tigers are prone to go through some dry spells on that end of the court. Clemson has been in many close games this season, and that could help them against a team that can put up some serious points.

Like Clemson, SMU has shown the ability to make it extremely tough for its opponents to score the ball, ranking 7th in the nation in opposing field goal percentage (38.2%), while allowing only 62.3 PPG (24th in Div. I). While the Mustangs do not score a lot of points 71.4 PPG (160th in nation), they do a terrific job of shooting the ball, ranking 24th in Div. I with a 48.4% FG clip. Larry Brown’s team does a great job of sharing the ball, averaging 15.2 APG, good for 35th in the nation. PG Nic Moore (13.5 PPG, 4.9 APG, 45% threes) did a terrific job in his first year playing for the Mustangs. He is going to be the shortest guy on the court a lot of times during the game, but has the athleticism and speed to make up for it. SF Markus Kennedy (12.2 PPG, 7.0 RPG) and SG Nick Russell (9.8 PPG, 40% threes, 3.4 RPG) are both guys that can have big nights on the offensive end. Russell is a transfer from Kansas State that has played against top-notch talent in the Big 12. Freshman SG Keith Frazier (5.7 PPG, 41% threes) is an extremely talented player that is continuing to get better each day. He is averaging 10.0 PPG in his past two games, but could be the X-factor in this matchup. Both of these teams boast terrific defenses, so scoring will be at a premium in this game.

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