Wednesday, November 5, 2008

season preview: Clemson

Second basketball preview. The season tips off for good and real in less than two weeks, and at the rate I'm going with these previews they should be done just in time for the conference tournament. So I'll be trying to hustle these along. Anyway, Clemson.

Media prediction: 5th

ACC schedule:
Twice: Florida State, Georgia Tech, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest
Once: Boston College (A), Duke (H), Maryland (H), Miami (A), North Carolina (A), NC State (H)

2007 All-ACC:
First team: None
Second team: K.C. Rivers
Third team: Cliff Hammonds
Freshman team: None
Defensive: None
HM: Terrence Oglesby (freshman), Cliff Hammonds (defensive), James Mays (defensive)

(italics: returning)

Projected starters:
PG: Demontez Stitt (So.)
SG: Terrence Oglesby (So.)
SF: K.C. Rivers (Sr.)
PF: Trevor Booker (Jr.)
C: Raymond Sykes (Sr.)

F David Potter (Jr.)
F Jerai Grant (So.)
C Bobo Baciu (Fr.)
G Andre Young (Fr.)

Coach: Oliver Purnell (6th year)

Clemson basketball has been a lot like Clemson football lately: much promise, little results. That changed, mostly, last year when they put together a 24-9 season going into the NCAA tournament - and then fell victim to the dreaded curse of the 5th seed. The media projects Clemson to drop a few spots, and it's not hard to see why. They lose longtime stalwarts Cliff Hammonds and James Mays - each of them steady, dependable players for the past three years, and the team's best defenders. Mays will be replaced by Raymond Sykes, known more for his dreads than his scoring touch.

Clemson will be led this year by K.C. Rivers, the team's leading scorer two years running and a threat both inside and outside. He's a nasty good three point shooter. Clemson, in fact, returns two players who can hit 40% from beyond the arc: Rivers and sophomore guard Terrence Oglesby, who steps into the starting lineup after serving as the first off the bench as a freshman.

Down low, Trevor Booker is another one of those steady, dependable types Clemson has come to rely on. Booker provides Clemson's post scoring and keeps defenses from focusing too much on Clemson's perimeter players. He'll be backed up by the 7'2" Romanian freshman, Bobo Baciu. Baciu chose Clemson over a who's who of schools that offered him, and will tower over most anyone in the ACC.

Clemson's starting lineup is solid enough to match up well against most any in the ACC. It's very well-rounded - all but Sykes are serious scoring threats on any play. The backcourt - Oglesby and fellow soph Demontez Stitt - is young but about as experienced as you could ask a pair of sophomores to be, and the rest have at least two years of time in the rotation. The bench is the question mark - it's long on potential but a little shy on experience. The Tigers will be counting on freshmen Baciu and Andre Young to step into the rotation right away, and when all's said and done they may not be the only freshmen with significant PT. This is their Achilles heel. We know what to expect out of the starters, and they're good enough to ensure that Clemson finishes with at least an even 8-8 in ACC play. But this team won't be a high NCAA seed again unless the bench can prove themselves able to carry the load too. Consider Clemson a 4-6 seed if that does happen, and probably an 8-10 seed if not.

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