ACC Preview: Clemson’s Burning Question

Posted by Matt Patton on November 11th, 2014

This team preview is part of the RTC ACC microsite’s preseason coverage. You will find a list with links to all the team previews on the ACC Microsite Preview Page, located here.

Will Brad Brownell keep surprising or will KJ McDaniels’ departure spell doom in the upstate?

Let’s be clear, Clemson was a lot better than most people gave it credit for last season. The Tigers made it to the semifinals of the NIT and went 4-8 against Ken Pomeroy’s top 50, with wins coming against Duke, Maryland, Illinois and Florida State. But they also had KJ McDaniels, and just like Clemson was underrated last season, so was he. He was one of the country’s best defenders, using more than 28 percent of Clemson’s possessions while remaining the most efficient player on the team. Now it’s a new year and McDaniels is getting paid to play for the 76ers. There aren’t any returning players in the ACC who could replace him, much less anybody on Brad Brownell’s current roster.

Jaron Blossomgame should help make up some of KJ McDaniels production this season. (AP)

Jaron Blossomgame (5) should help make up some of KJ McDaniels’ lost production this season. (AP)

This year we know one thing: Clemson will play defense. The Tigers return most of their team other than McDaniels and Brownell’s teams always play defense. Seniors Rod Hall and Demarcus Harrison will be joined by Jaron Blossomgame, Jordan Roper and Landry Nnoko. Only Blossomgame was a freshman last year, so that’s a lot of available experience available to Brownell (albeit that experience would make for a short lineup). Blossomgame will likely find himself getting the majority of McDaniels’ old minutes. More interestingly — at least in the long-term — is Brownell bringing in consensus top-100 forward Donte Grantham and Gabe Devoe. Grantham is projected to start right away, and although Devoe wasn’t as highly touted, he lit up the scoreboard in high school (34.0 PPG), and he shot over 40 percent from deep with over 100 makes. Between Grantham’s size and Devoe’s scoring ability, look for these two freshmen to get immediate time. Brownell has struggled in recruiting ACC-caliber talent during his first four seasons, but these two players could mark a turning point in his acquisition of talent.

Having to rely on freshmen to carry an offense that was buoyed to mediocrity by a strong free throw percentage (74.4%) and solid offensive rebounding (33.8%) isn’t a recipe for consistency. And none of the current core has any experience in being a go-to player at this level, an issue that will manifest on nights when the jumpers aren’t falling. With such a strong top of the conference this season, this is probably a year when Clemson slips into the bottom third of the league. Whether that is enough to save Brownell’s job is anybody’s guess, but the future looks bright for the Tigers even if this one feels like a roller coaster.

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ACC Team Preview: Clemson Tigers

Posted by KCarpenter on October 30th, 2013

Last season, Clemson went 5-13 in the ACC and 13-17 overall on the way to a first round ACC Tournament exit to Florida State. This season, Clemson will try to do the same thing while losing program cornerstones Devin Booker and Milton Jennings. While Booker was a steady if unspectacular presence and Jennings a maddeningly inconsistent riddle, both were senior veterans who held down the Clemson frontcourt. This didn’t translate to many wins last year, but the Seminoles’ strong interior defense did show up in the numbers: Clemson was third in the conference in opponent two-point percentage (45.3%) and block percentage (12.6%). It’s a slim silver lining, but it was a small comfort last season. This season? There are lots of clouds on the horizon. A team that failed to do much of anything else effectively has its last strength taken away from it. What’s left for the Tigers?

Clemson-Preview-2013

 

K.J. McDaniels is a still-underrated swingman with offensive and defensive savvy. His ability to block shots is freakish. At 6’6”, he had the second highest block percentage in the conference (8.32%), surpassed only by the 6’10” Julian Gamble. His shooting remains unspectacular, but he had the second highest offensive efficiency on the team while taking the greatest proportion of shots. He might not be a perfect-world first choice on offense, but he is capable of handling the role while also playing stout defense.

Beyond McDaniels, however, the Clemson frontcourt has few proven options. Sophomores Landry Nnoko and Josh Smith averaged 6.6 and 5.6 minutes per game, respectively, and in that limited time didn’t do much to earn themselves more run. Though Nnoko has some intriguing potential on the glass (12.8% offensive rebounding!), his super-small sample size can’t be overstated. The newcomers to the team offer a little depth and some promise, but it’s unclear whether they are ready to contribute immediately. Jaron Blossomgame was touted as a guy with a lot of potential before injuries derailed his Clemson debut. If he is healthy he might make a big difference for the Tigers. Likewise, junior college transfer Ibrahim Djambo and freshman Sidy Mohamed Djitte. Djitte, in particular, may be a big help to Clemson down the road, but early reports suggests that he is still very raw. As he develops, however, he will provide a strong cornerstone for the Tigers for years to come.

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ACC Team Previews: Clemson Tigers

Posted by KCarpenter on October 24th, 2012

Throughout the preseason, the ACC microsite will release a preview for each of the 12 teams. Today’s victim: the Clemson Tigers.

Last season, the Clemson Tigers flirted with sneaking into the NCAA Tournament before wilting in the conference tournament. Brad Brownell‘s squad go off to a dubious start, losing home games to the likes of Coastal Carolina and the College of Charleston and continuing shaky play on the road by losing to Hawaii and Boston College. Yet something strange happened as the season went on: The Tigers notched victories against North Carolina State, Virginia, and Florida State, finishing the season on a fairly impressive 5-2 run. It would have taken an unlikely run to the ACC Tournament championship game, but Clemson was not as impossibly far from dancing as their  16-14 record (8-8 in conference) might indicate. The question remains, however, can the Tigers move forward?

Brad Brownell Has a Young Team With a Tough Early Schedule Ahead of Him

Newcomers

The Tigers are going to welcome a whole raft of freshmen this season as Brownell tries to replenish the team’s depleted ranks. The freshmen class consists of a wide range of fairly talented recruits, though no one player is heralded as a game-changing savior. Adonis Filer and Jordan Roper are capable point guards, but this year they will, barring a surprise, come off the bench, serving as a second string in the guard rotation. Similarly, Landry Nnoko and Josh Smith are gifted big men, but they will almost certainly start behind the veteran Clemson frontcourt. Finally Jaron Blossomgame might be the slowest to be integrated into the rotation on account of a broken leg that he suffered last spring. Blossomgame, however, might be able to help the Tigers the most. Though he is small for an ACC power forward at 6’7″, he may be able to offer support at the swingman position, where Clemson only fields one prototypical small forward in K.J. McDaniels.

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ACC Summer Recess: Clemson Tigers

Posted by KCarpenter on July 24th, 2012

Over the next four weeks we’ll be taking a step back and looking at each team in the ACC to assess where each program — and the conference as a whole — stands before we totally turn our attention to the 2013-14 season later this fall. Today’s target: Clemson.

Where They Stand Now

It’s hard to remember the momentum that Clemson had at the end of the season, but the Tigers really picked it up as the season wore on. After a dismal 3-6 conference start, Brad Brownell‘s team rallied and went 5-2 down the stretch, bringing the team to a perfectly even 8-8 finish. A first round conference tournament flameout against Virginia Tech didn’t exactly end the season on a high note, but it’s important to remember that this Clemson team managed to beat the likes of Florida State, Virginia, and North Carolina State over the course of the season. In all, last season was probably a step back for the Tigers, but nowhere close to the catastrophes that some of the other conference teams endured.

Who’s Leaving

The Tigers are taking a big blow to their rotation due to that scourge called graduation: sensational scorer Andre Young, the versatile Tanner Smith, and valuable rotation players in Catalin Baciu and Bryan Narcisse.  The loss of the two veteran starters, Young and Smith, will give the team a very different feel in the coming year. The pair easily led the rest of the team in minutes played in 2011-12.

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