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By Jay BilasNo. 23 Clemson at No. 5 Duke, Saturday, 6 p.m. ET (ESPN, ESPN360.com) Why Watch: Clemson brings its very best effort against two teams: North Carolina and Duke. I don't know whether it is the Tigers' survival instinct or their desire to steal from the rich, but Clemson plays hard and without fear. Last season, Clemson seemingly had the Blue Devils beat in Cameron Indoor Stadium, but Duke was able to escape from the jaws of defeat in the final seconds through a David McClure layup, just as North Carolina did this season in Littlejohn Coliseum with a Wayne Ellington jumper. That has been Clemson's fate in these games: play your tail off, get close enough to taste a win and leave with your tail between your legs. This Clemson team has the ability to attack Duke where the Blue Devils can be had. Clearly, Duke is better and more consistent. However, Clemson has good inside strength with Trevor Booker, James Mays and Raymond Sykes. Booker has been on a tear lately, scoring 32 points against Charlotte and 29 points against Florida State, including a banked 3 to send a game into overtime. Booker is bigger and stronger than any player on the Duke roster, but the question is whether Clemson will be able to find him with Duke's pressure taking away vision. Mays is a Renaldo Balkman-type player who can rebound, run, defend and finish plays, and he points the Tiger press and makes it difficult to inbound and advance the ball. Lefty swingman K.C. Rivers is Clemson's best scorer and most consistent worker, and he has the strength and athleticism to put the ball on the deck and get to the rim. Rivers can also pull up and hit a contested jumper. Cliff Hammonds and Demontez Stitt are both good defensive guards, and both have had good scoring outputs. It will be important for each to handle the ball without turning it over or taking quick, contested shots. In Duke, Clemson will be facing a team that grew up a great deal on the road against Florida State on Wednesday. The Blue Devils did not play their best against the Seminoles but still made winning plays down the stretch. This is a new team for Mike Krzyzewski, and he has been positive with them in trying to bring them along. He had to have been pleased with the physical and mental courage shown by his young players in their first ACC road game. DeMarcus Nelson plays better at home than on the road, and with his strength and 7-foot wingspan, he is the best guard rebounder in the ACC. Gerald Henderson, at 6-4, will jump center to start the game, and he has been using his athleticism and smooth mid-range game to aggressively look to score. Nolan Smith and Greg Paulus split time at the point, with Smith the better defender and Paulus the better shooter. Paulus played his poorest game of the season against Florida State, but then he came back and played a great five minutes with the game on the line. The key performer will be Kyle Singler, who will have to guard Mays or Booker or both. Singler is the most complete player on Duke's team and his great pick-and-pop ability will draw Clemson's bigs away from the lane.
Peyton Williams/US Presswire
How will Kyle Singler, Duke's lone inside presence, handle Clemson's trio of big athletes?
By Dana O'NeilB.J. Raymond, Xavier
AP Photo/Al Behrman
Xavier needs B.J. Raymond to have a better game than his goose egg in the spanking at Temple.