Heading into league play, Clemson was but an afterthought in the ACC. They had not only played one of the weakest non-conference schedules in the nation, but had also performed miserably against it, posting a record of 7-5 with the “marquee” win coming against Texas Southern. But somehow, Brad Brownell’s Tigers have engineered a shocking turnaround in ACC play. Against the toughest league slate faced by any ACC team up to this point, Clemson has won six of its first eight games and currently sits in third place in the league. No other major conference school in the country has seen such a dramatic change in performance. How have the Tigers done it? Can they maintain this level of play? And most importantly, can this Clemson team make the NCAA Tournament for the first time since Brownell’s first season at the school?
There have been two key improvements that have led to Clemson’s turnaround, one statistical, one more subjective. By looking at Brownell’s coaching profile (table below), we see these Tigers actually have the worst rated defense in his six years at the helm. But that is being more than offset by the most potent offense Brownell has put on the floor during his tenure at Clemson. In a league like this ACC – with seven of the country’s top 27 offenses, you have to be able to score at a high level to compete with the best teams. The Tigers have done just that – ranking fifth in offensive efficiency in ACC games. The two main factors in the improved Clemson offense are turnover percentage and effective field goal percentage, both of which are vastly better this year compared with recent seasons. And after years of struggling from behind the arc, three-point shooting is now a strength of this Tigers’ squad (as seen below).