ACC Burning Questions, Part 2: Clemson, Virginia Tech & Georgia Tech

Posted by Mick McDonald on October 24th, 2019

Clemson Burning Question: Can the Tigers score enough to compete?

Brad Brownell’s 10th Year at Clemson is a Transition One (USA Today Images)

As Dabo Swinney and the Clemson football team continue to reel off wins, the Tigers’ basketball team flies under the radar. That might be a good thing for Brad Brownell, as his club loses its top three scorers from a second round NIT squad. To make things tougher, Clemson’s projected starting point guard, Clyde Trapp, suffered a torn ACL over the summer. While Brownell’s teams pride themselves on defense (Clemson ranked 28th nationally in field goal percentage defense and 14th in adjusted defense, via KenPom), they’ll need to find someone to put the ball in the basket if they want to hang around the bubble. Forward Aamir Simms had a promising freshman year in 2017-18, but he regressed last year, seeing declines in his scoring (14.2 to 13.6 PPG) and conversion rate (53.6 to 52.5% eFG) and an increase in turnovers (13.9 to 15.1% TO). Sophomore guard John Newman could never really get going last season, but he’ll be counted on for a big increase in usage this year. Brownell will also rely on transfers, including versatile wing Tevin Mack (formerly of Texas and Alabama) and sharpshooting former Tulsa guard Curran Scott (39.6% 3FG). Look for freshman guards Al-Amir Dawes and Chase Hunter to get some run as well, with Clemson going perimeter-heavy around Simms as a small-ball five.

Virginia Tech Burning Question: Can Mike Young work magic in year one?

Mike Young Has Big Shoes to Fill in Blacksburg (USA Today Images)

There’s not a team in the ACC that will look more different this year than the Hokies. Not only did Buzz Williams bolt for Texas A&M last April, but Virginia Tech lost its top five scorers from a Swet Sixteen team that was inches away from knocking out top-seeded Duke. Long-time Wofford coach Mike Young takes over in Blacksburg — and despite an excellent reputation — he’s going to have to pull some strings to make the Hokies competitive in his first year on the job. Freshman point guard Jalen Cone is a highly-touted recruit who will be heavily relied upon from the jump. Redshirt freshman wing Landers Nolley, who was ruled ineligible by the NCAA last season, is back on campus and will provide some excitement. Beyond that, the cupboard looks pretty bare. Virginia Tech will need guard Isaiah Wilkins (40.7% 3FG) to continue to shoot it well from the outside and ask much more from Wabissa Bede and P.J. Horne, who played sparingly a season ago. Alabama State transfer Branden Johnson (63.6% eFG last season in limited usage) will have an expanded role up front.

Georgia Tech Burning Question: How will the postseason ban impact the Yellow Jackets’ effort?

How cruel the world can be sometimes. With eight of his top 11 scorers returning and dynamo VMI transfer Bubba Parham on board, Josh Pastner harbored reasonable hopes of taking Georgia Tech back to the NCAA Tournament. Then, on September 26, the NCAA announced it was banning the Yellow Jackets from this year’s postseason as part of a four-year probation. So much for the buzz in Atlanta. To be clear, however, this team still had a long way to go to become relevant. They shot just 30.7 percent (332nd nationally) from long-range last season. They turned the ball over far too often, as only two players (point guard Jose Alvarado and reserve guard Shembari Phillips) logged a turnover rate of less than 16.5 percent. However, with Parham (39.7% 3FG) on board and more expected from sophomore Michael Devoe (39% 3FG), there was hope that the offense could be much improved. USC transfer Jordan Usher will also be eligible in mid-December, and although he struggled last year, he shot 40.9 percent from distance two seasons ago. The Yellow Jackets will still play Pastner’s trademark zone defense, as wings Khalid Moore (6’7”), Moses Wright (6’9”) and Evan Cole (6’10”) can use their length to make it difficult to move the ball, and James Banks III (9.4% block rate) is an elite rim protector. Georgia Tech was likely destined for the NIT this season, but there was at least some excitement about this group. The postseason ban removes that component and will make it difficult for this group to stay focused.

Mick McDonald (70 Posts)

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