BUFFALO, N.Y. -- A coach will typically not reveal his game plan during a press on the eve of a first-round NCAA Tournament game. Yet Clemson coach Oliver Purnell indicated the undersized ACC Tigers might go even smaller against Missouri today.
Clemson point guards Andre Young and Demontez Stitt have been paired together, on average, 18 minutes per game in ACC play. That time could increase today if Purnell elects to keep his two best ball-handlers on the court as often as possible to better break Missouri's full-court press.
"I like that combination," Purnell said. "The concern you always have is from a stamina standpoint and having both those guys kind of tuckered out. But it's a one-and-done situation. So I'm not going to be too worried about stamina.
"Those two guys obviously make us a better ball-handling team. Andre and Demontez are two of our better scorers, so particularly if we're struggling scoring, you'll probably see them more together."
Clemson and Missouri meet today at the HSBC Arena, home of the NHL's Buffalo Sabres, where Clemson will be on something of a power play with Missouri not at full strength.
Missouri forward Laurence Bowers, the team's best shot-blocker, said Sunday that he has two torn ligaments in his left wrist. Bowers will play through the wrist injury.
Missouri lost fellow forward Justin Safford to a torn ACL on Feb. 24. Missouri has lost three out of four games without the 6-8 Safford, the team's fifth leading scorer.
Purnell said the Tigers have watched three of Missouri's games without Safford and cautioned to not read too much into their late-season slide since two of the losses occurred against Kansas, a No. 1 seed, and Kansas State, a No. 2 seed.
Still, the losses give Clemson and forward Trevor Booker a greater advantage inside. Missouri has only two healthy rotation players 6-8 or taller in Keith Ramsey and Steve Moore.
Obama, cabinet down on Clemson
Barack Obama revealed his bracket Wednesday, predictions that included Missouri beating Clemson today. On the same day, Arne Duncan, the U.S. Secretary of Education, told USA Today that if he had it his way Clemson and 11 other programs with sub-40 graduation rates would be banned from the field.
The graduation rates do not include this year's players, rather the last class that had six years to earn a degree. Maryland has the lowest rate (8 percent) in the field.
Missouri coach Mike Anderson coached Booker during the World University Games tryouts last year. Does that up-close look give Anderson a tactical advantage today?
"I don't think so," Booker said. "He coached me probably one or two scrimmages down there. He didn't get to see too much. I didn't that about that he could end up playing against me."
Reach Travis Sawchik at email@example.com.