[4:00 PM] Clemson v. Alabama

Who will WIN this matchup?

Clemson Tigers (7-2)

Alabama Crimson Tide (5-4)


Clemson closed out a perfect homestand with flair, winning its final three games by a combined 113 points – but things are about to get a whole lot tougher beginning Sunday afternoon with a trip to Alabama as part of the Vulcan Classic in Birmingham. The Crimson Tide have one of the best defenses in the nation, and it was on full display in a 78-61 win over South Carolina Upstate on Tuesday.

Alabama smothered the visiting Spartans for most of the game, limiting them to a pair of field goals over the final 9:53 of the opening half and cruising from there en route to their third consecutive home victory. The Tigers won’t be intimidated, having already beaten an SEC team this season (ousting Georgia 74-64 in the season opener for both teams) and getting some welcome help in the form of Elijah Thomas. The one-time Top-50 recruit is expected to make his Clemson debut Sunday after transferring from Texas A&M, where he showed plenty of promise even in limited action.

Thomas, a 6-9 forward, is expected to provide significant depth up front after averaging 3.8 points on 63.2 percent shooting and adding 2.5 rebounds in just under 10 minutes per game for the Aggies. His presence could take some of the pressure off senior forward Jaron Blossomgame, who leads the Tigers in scoring at 18.6 points per game and is coming off a 29-point explosion in a 93-65 win over South Carolina State last time out. Donte Grantham (12 points per game) leads three other players averaging double figures in scoring for Clemson, while Senegalese center Sidy Djitte ranks fifth in the ACC in rebounding (10.3) and has pulled down at least 13 boards in three of his last five games.

Johnson may not have a go-to scorer like Blossomgame in his midst, but he’ll gladly take the kind of balanced offense he has been getting so far. Seven players average at least six points per game for the Crimson Tide, led by freshman forward Braxton Key (9.9) and first-year guard Dazon Ingram (9.7); the balanced scoring is undoubtedly due to a spread-the-wealth approach to playing time on the part of Johnson, with 11 players averaging 10 or more minutes per game and no one player exceeding 26.6. But not everything is perfect in Alabama, with the team ranking dead last in the SEC in points per game (68.8) and 10th out of 14 teams in field-goal percentage (43.9).

Clemson ranks first in the conference and seventh in Division I overall with a plus-6.4 turnover margin.


StreakSmarts Pick: Clemson Tigers

Confidence: 5/10

StreakSmarter Pick