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 in the NIT: Florida State and Clemson Advancing With Solid Backcourt Play

Posted by Brad Jenkins on April 1st, 2014

The 2013-14 NCAA Tournament will not be something that ACC fans will remember fondly, with only Virginia among the 16 teams playing during the second weekend, and no ACC team advancing to the Elite Eight or beyond. But at least the league has two teams in the NIT Final Four, right? OK, that’s not something that the historically great ACC would normally celebrate, but sometimes you just need to take what you can get. Tonight at New York’s Madison Square Garden, Clemson (23-13) will take on SMU (27-9) at 7:00 PM ET, followed by Florida State (23-13) vs. Minnesota (23-14). The winners will meet for the NIT Championship on Thursday night, giving the ACC a pretty good chance to bring home at least one postseason trophy this season.

Clemson is getting solid backcourt play from Damarcus Harrison. (Photo: Rex Brown/IPTAY Media)

Clemson is getting improved backcourt play from Damarcus Harrison.
(Photo: Rex Brown/IPTAY Media)

Outside of first team all-ACC player K.J. McDaniels, Clemson has struggled offensively for much of this season. It’s no secret that Brad Brownell has been looking for some consistent scoring from just about anybody, but particularly from the perimeter. The good news is that the Tigers are finally getting some help for McDaniels in the form of their two wings. Junior Damarcus Harrison and sophomore Jordan Roper have stepped up their scoring during Clemson’s three-game NIT run. The two have combined to average 24 points per game on their way to New York, after collectively averaging only 14 points per game in the team’s previous 32 games this season. That 10-points per game improvement may not sound dramatic, but to a team that struggles scoring, it’s a huge boost. Harrison was the key to Clemson’s NIT quarterfinal win over Belmont last week, scoring 14 of his 16 points in the second half as the Tigers rallied from a late five-point deficit to win the game. Including Clemson’s one-point loss to Duke in the ACC Tournament, Roper has now scored in double figures in four straight games, and has been perfect on all 11 of his free throw attempts during that span.

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ACC M5: 12.19.13 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on December 19th, 2013

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  1. Bleacher Report: Good profile of Quinn Cook from Jason King. Cook’s offense took a small step back as he saw a big increase in minutes last season, but this year, he’s having his best season yet from both the lenses of efficiency and per game statistics. He’s also the emotional leader of Duke’s team, and sets the tone on offense and defense. While he’s trying to keep the negative emotions at bay during games, you can always tell when he’s fired up. Cook still has areas that need improvement (mostly defensively), but this is likely his only year to really run Duke’s offense. The word on Tyus Jones is that he’s good enough to immediately take the reins upon arrival, and Cook is a good enough shooter to play off the ball (but he needs NBA scouts to see him running the offense).
  2. Greenville News: Jordan Roper had a stroke last spring. While leaning over to pick up a phone, he realized he couldn’t feel his hand. Assuming the numbness was just due to fatigue, Roper continued his daily business until strength and conditioning coach Darric Honnold (which is an awesome name for strength coach) sent him to get checked out by the training staff. Amazingly, he recovered and was back with Clemson in a matter of weeks, but the experience has given him a new appreciation for his health.
  3. Syracuse Post-Gazette: Jason Murray produced a number of shot charts for the Syracuse rotation. Two of the three main findings weren’t surprising: “Trevor Cooney is extremely efficient in his shot selection,” and “The big men should get the ball more.” But he also found that Michael Gbinije is much better from three than the paint. A lot of that has to do with shot selection (and small sample size), but for a team that struggles from behind the arc, maybe more plays looking for Gbinije spotting up from deep would help the spacing for the bigs. The other definitive thing is that BJ Johnson should probably avoid threes for a little while.
  4. Hampton Roads Daily Press: Solid piece from Norm Wood on London Perrantes, Virginia’s freshman starting point guard. That said, the questions comparing Perrantes to Magic Johnson feel a little forced, but there’s some good tidbits from Tony Bennett on what he’s looking from Jontel Evans’ replacement. Mostly Bennett wants Perrantes to keep defenses honest while valuing the basketball, but he’s at least planted the seed of growing into a “dual threat” guard.
  5. Pulsefeedz: Not our normal fare, but Maryland‘s statue of Testudo (the Terrapin mascot) somehow caught fire recently. It has since been deemed an accident, but that seems like a pretty serious fire. No one (including the statue) was injured in the event.

VIDEO EXTRA: Roy Williams wasn’t happy after North Carolina’s home loss to Texas.

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ACC M5: 11.06.13 Edition

Posted by mpatton on November 6th, 2013

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  1. Bleacher Report: This article is only peripherally related to the ACC, but it’s a fascinating read on how Synergy Sports Technology has changed the game. On the obvious scale, Synergy allows well-financed writers to cite statistics normally hard to come by (like offensive efficiency on pick and rolls). More importantly, it allows coaches to prepare more efficiently than ever before. It’s not that coaches stop watching film, now they can back up their informed observations with the help of tons of data that’s never existed before. The example CJ Moore provides is in Duke‘s preparation for the 2010 national championship:

    [Gordon] Hayward is right-handed, and the natural inclination for any defender would be to try to force a right-hander to go left. But when Duke went through the scouting report on Butler, it was clear you did not want to let Hayward go left. The numbers provided by Synergy Sports Technology had revealed that Hayward went left nearly 70 percent of the time.

    Singler ended up forcing Hayward right and he missed the shot.

  2. Baltimore Sun: I know Mark Turgeon is framing his argument about how his team has matured, but when he says “Last year we had too many young guys who were worried about themselves,” it immediately makes me think about Alex Len. Len never had playing time issues, but his presence forced the team to play inside-out, which did not fit most of the roster. Again Turgeon was talking about his younger players, who are now a year wiser. It will be interesting to see if the improved chemistry helps with Maryland’s turnover epidemic.
  3. The State: Here’s a good article on Clemson’s Jordan Roper, Brad Brownell’s undersized scoring point guard from nearby Irmo, South Carolina. Roper is the kind of player Brownell needs to blossom if he’s going to maintain success at Clemson. Not one to dominate the recruiting trail, cultivating local talent is one way to ensure there are always quality players on the roster. Roper still has a long way to go, but I think he has the chance to blossom into a player like Tyrese Rice at Boston College (assuming he can pack on a couple of pounds).
  4. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Pittsburgh will likely continue its streak of sold out home games this season, as the Panthers sold out their season ticket allotment twelfth straight year (which unsurprisingly coincides with the first year they played at the Pete). While on the whole college attendance has fallen the last few years, it will be interesting to see if the bigger ACC–and the improving bottom of the league–boosts ticket sales around the league.
  5. Pack Pride: Normally we stay away from message boards, but this investigation by Wufwuf1 is truly something else. The user has drawn intricate alleged connections from North Carolina boosters to agents and back to players. Everything from company websites to social network pages were combed for possible links that might bring the NCAA’s wrath down on North Carolina. I can’t speak to the validity of the work, but there’s plenty of it. Don’t let people tell you this isn’t a rivalry.
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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 M5: 02.26.13 Edition

Posted by mpatton on February 26th, 2013

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  1. Blogger So Dear: John Mundy is back at the keyboard, so his story is back on top of the Morning Five. This time he (and a photographer) visited two of the great arenas of ACC lore, Carmichael Auditorium (the current home to North Carolina’s women’s team) and Cameron Indoor. He went to see the Wake Forest women compete, but his real purpose was to soak up the ambiance of the two venerable old gyms. Interestingly, he came away with two very different reactions: At Carmichael, he found a reflection of North Carolina, but “at no point in my trip to Duke did I think one second about Duke University,” Mundy recalled. He only thought about basketball.
  2. Fayetteville Observer: Speaking of Duke, the Blue Devils have a tough week ahead of them with games at Virginia and against Miami over the stretch of three days. It will be a good test for both the ACC and NCAA Tournaments, where talented opponents will be waiting around every corner. Duke’s ACC schedule was backloaded (both in talent and frequency), as it took the Blue Devils 34 days to play the first half of ACC play and will take only 28 for the last half.
  3. Charlottesville Daily Progress: For at least the second straight year, an important ACC freshman has gone down with mononucleosis. Mike Tobey will be back for Virginia after missing five games with the long, strength-sapping illness, which is much less time than Patrick Heckmann missed for Boston College last season. That bodes well for Tobey, who may be able to avoid losing the amount of ground Heckmann did (when he came back, he was a shadow of his former self). Tobey came back for Virginia’s beat-down of Georgia Tech, which should be a warm-up for Duke later this week.
  4. Spartanburg Herald-Journal: Freshman Jordan Roper has been seeing his role grow in importance since day one at Clemson. The South Carolina native has played more than 30 minutes in the Tigers’ last four games. He’s scored in double figures in three of those four games, including a career high 19 points on 8-of-11 shooting against Miami. Roper is a good shooter, a rarity on this year’s Clemson team, but he needs to work on facilitating more when he’s in the game.
  5. ESPN: Dean Smith is the godfather of tempo-free statistics. He started charting points per possession way before it was cool. Tempo-free stats still haven’t taken off like advanced baseball statistics (which are terrific predictors), but they’re picking up force. More and more you hear announcers talk about “efficiency” or “effective field goal percentage”. Myron Medcalf talked to Jim Larranaga, who quoted Sun Tzu to emphasize the importance of stats (Miami charts points per possession on a special scoreboard during its practices).
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Rushed Reactions: Maryland 72, Clemson 59

Posted by IRenko on February 23rd, 2013

rushedreactions

I. Renko is an RTC correspondent based in D.C. and the author of the weekly column, The Other 26. He filed this report after Saturday afternoon’s game between Maryland and Clemson. Follow him on Twitter @IRenkoHoops.

Three key takeaways:

  • Maryland’s Tournament Hopes Are Alive — Last weekend’s win over Duke gave the Terps’ Tournament hopes a big boost, but a letdown loss at Boston College on Tuesday left them on the thinnest of ice. A loss to Clemson at home would have been a big blow, and it seemed a real possibility when the Tigers pulled to within a point just after halftime. But a 21-6 run gave the Terps a comfortable 16-point cushion with 11:20 to play, and from there, they eased to a comfortable 13-point win, keeping their Tournament hopes alive. While acknowledging his team’s somewhat slow start, head coach Mark Turgeon was quite happy with the Terps’ second-half performance, crediting their defense even more than their offense for enabling them to take control.
  • Maryland’s Freshman Frontcourt May Be Its Future — Sophomore Alex Len has been the focus of the media’s attention for most of the year, but Maryland’s freshmen frontcourt shows signs of being a real force for years to come. Jake Layman, Charles Mitchell, and Shaquille Cleare were averaging just 5.2, 5.5, and 4.2 points coming into today’s game, but they scored 12, 8, and 10 respectively today. More than that, they showed a certain kind of maturity and poise that belied their status as freshmen. The 6′ 8″ Layman is a swing forward with the athleticism, quickness, and shooting touch to play on the perimeter. He has been a full-time starter since late January, and the confidence and skill he displayed against Clemson show why. Mitchell and Cleare are a pair of big bodies who are still refining their post moves, but are strong finishers and rebounders who use their bulk to great effect. They added 6 and 7 boards apiece today and were a big reason Maryland was able to dominate the paint against a typically stout Clemson defense. Their physicality will suit the Terps well when they make the transition to the Big Ten.
  • Clemson’s Offense Is In A Deep Funk – The Tigers have a strong defense, as they showed in taking Miami the distance last week in a 45-43 loss. But their offense has struggled and especially badly of late. This was the fifth straight game in which they scored less than a point per possession. For a team that is likely looking forward to next season already, the news gets worse — two of their three leading scorers, Devin Booker and Milton Jennings, graduate this year. That leaves a heavy load for K.J. McDaniels, who managed seven points against Maryland, and Jordan Roper, who scored a very inefficient 13 points on 5-of-15 FG shooting.

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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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