New Mexico State vs Clemson Preview and Prediction
New Mexico State vs Clemson Preview
A matchup that always presents upsets this time of year, the 12th-seeded New Mexico State Aggies will take on the 5th-seeded Clemson Tigers in a NCAA Tournament showdown on Friday.
First-year head coach Chris Jans leads an Aggie team that will be playing in the NCAA Tournament for the sixth time in seven years.
Heading into Friday’s contest, the 12th-seed has gone 74-155 all-time since 1979 and have won at least one tournament in 15 of the last 17 years. When looking at the opening game of the tournament, 12-seeds are 38-74 all-time while three of the last six 12/5 upsets have come in overtime.
A quick look at the Tigers
Heading to this weekend’s first-round game, Clemson is 23-9 overall and finished in a tie for third in the Atlantic Coast Conference with an 11-7 mark along with Miami, NC State and North Carolina. The 11 wins in ACC action was the most in program history and tied the program record for wins in any conference (SEC, 1951-52). The Tigers earned an at-large berth to the NCAA Tournament, their first since 2011, after falling in the semifinals of the ACC Tournament to top-ranked Virginia 64-58.
In its history, Clemson is 9-11 all-time in the Big Dance while its 12 tournament appearances are third-fewest among ACC programs. This is the second NCAA Tournament berth for the Tigers under eighth-year head coach Brad Brownell. The other appearance came in his first-season at the helm in 2011.
All-ACC second-teamer Marcquise Reed leads the fifth-seeded Tigers with 15.9 points per game after starting in all 32 games this season. The 6’3 guard was named to the USBWA All-District team and National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) Second-Team. Reed is also second on the team with 65 made three-balls while dishing out a team-high 110 assists to go with his 54 steals. The redshirt junior was critical to Clemson’s defensive success that led to 11-straight wins.
With big man Donte Grantham out for the season 19 games into the season, Gabe DeVoe is second on the squad with 13.2 points per game. Like Reed, DeVoe earned all-conference accolades as well, taking home All-ACC Honorable Mention while big man Elijah Thomas was named to the All-ACC Defensive Team. DeVoe is the best’s best 3-point shooter, knocking down 75 from downtown while also pulling down 4.7 rebounds per game with 63 assists on the year. Standing at 6-9, 237 pounds, Thomas owns a team-high 7.9 rebounding average. Another big threat with the ball for the Tigers is Shelton Mitchell, who has dished out 106 dimes this year with a .365 shooting clip from beyond the arc.
Jemerrio Jones leads the Aggies
Senior Jemerrio Jones has been a nightmare for opposing coaches since he stepped foot on the court in 2014. The 6-5 forward is averaging 12.0 rebounds heading into this week’s game and has already hauled in 564 boards since joining the Aggies in 2016 with seven regular-season games remaining – and could have as much as 11 games left to play should NM State run the table at the conference tournament and compete in the NCAA Tournament. If you count his JC numbers, he’s totaled 1,163 career rebounds to date – that’s with him getting injured his sophomore year at Hill JC after 13 games.
He’s pulled down double-digit rebounds in 17-of-23 games this year on top of his 14 double-doubles and historic triple-double. Jones is in the top-10 in virtually every rebounding category in the nation despite being undersized compared to the rest of the nation’s top rebounders. His triple-double against Eastern New Mexico is just one of 19 to occur this season to date and became just the fourth Aggie to do so.
By the end of last weekend, Jones was averaging 13.5 points, 17.0 rebounds, 5.5 assists to go with pair of blocks and steals for his 17th double-double of the year. Saturday was also the fourth time he had grabbed 20-plus rebounds in a single game, joining Sam Lacey as the only Aggie to do so in a single-season.
Chris Jans versus Power 5 schools
With its wins over Illinois (Dec. 16) and then-No. 6/ Miami on Dec. 23 in the semifinal of the Diamond Head Classic, head coach Chris Jans became the first coach since Lou Henson to take down a pair of Power 5 opponents in the same season. Coach Henson last did it during the 1999-2000 campaign when his squad defeated Texas Tech (Dec. 17, 1999) 84-75 followed by a 79-75 overtime victory against Washington (Dec. 30).
LINE: -4.5 Clemson
The Clemson Tigers had a terrific start to the season, but they lost a big part of their team when Donte Grantham went down for the season with a torn ACL. New Mexico State features a forward who isn’t the biggest guy in the paint, but Jemerrio Jones will outwork everyone on the glass and that will be a big reason why the Aggies pull the upset in this game.
New Mexico State 68 Clemson 64