Friday, December 7, 2012

season preview: Clemson

Tennessee reactions below this.

Clemson Tigers
Media prediction: 8th of 12

Last season:

Record: 16-15 (8-8) - ACC 7 seed
Postseason: none
KenPom: 76th of 345

Returning scoring: 46.5%
Returning rebounding: 55.6%
Returning assists: 31.9%

2011-2012 all-ACC:

1st team: none
2nd team: none
3rd team: none
HM: G Andre Young
DefensiveG Andre Young
Rookie: none

(Italics indicate departed player.)

Starting lineup:

PG: Rod Hall (So.)
SG: DaMarcus Harrison (So.)
SF: K.J. McDaniels (So.)
PF: Bernard Sullivan (So.)
C: Devin Booker (Sr.)


F Milton Jennings (Sr.)
G Adonis Filer (Fr.)
G Jordan Roper (Fr.)
C Landry Nnoko (Fr.)

Coach: Brad Brownell (3rd season)

ACC schedule:

Twice: Boston College, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Miami, NC State, Virginia, Virginia Tech
Once: Duke, Maryland, North Carolina, Wake Forest

The ACC is starting to regain its basketball footing, largely on the strength of teams like Clemson - the occupiers of the middle ranks that last year were upset on a regular basis and this year are showing more signs of life.  Clemson is off to an OK start; at least, they're not a threat to go 3-3 against instate opponents again, a record that was aided by losses to Coastal Carolina and College of Charleston.

They're not, like, world-beaters, of course.  They got blown out on their home floor by not-that-good Purdue in the ACC/B1G Challenge; being down 20 at halftime is a bad sign for the future of the contest.  But they were improving.  That improved start, though, has been derailed somewhat by a few guys who are definitely not going to win any Team Player awards.  Oft-suspended senior forward Milton Jennings finds himself back in the doghouse (he missed last year's first game against UVA, among others, for ignoring his classroom duties) and starting guard T.J. Sapp left the team just a couple days ago, throwing a fit after being yanked from the South Carolina game in the first minute for hoisting up a stupid shot.

That's two starters down in the span of about a week.  Wherever Clemson goes from here, they'll have to do it with a thin lineup because I would guess that Jennings's indefinite suspension is going to stay that way.  I had very little respect for Jennings's game last year.  It was sloppy and undisciplined.  In the small sample size of five games, it was much better this season; now, the Tigers must rely on Bernard Sullivan at power forward.

Somewhere inside Sullivan is a talented player, but that player has yet to rise to the surface.  Sullivan hasn't been much help on the offensive end yet this season; hasn't sank a shot in five games, in fact.  The loss of Jennings shifts the scoring burden outside.  Point guard Rod Hall has taken it upon himself to score a little more, which he's been able to do but at some expense of ball control, committing half his season turnover total in the past two games.  (Clemson's played seven.)  Hall, though, is doing a nice job taking over for Clemson's best departed player, Andre Young.

Clemson's best players are forwards, though.  Without Jennings, the only senior leadership they have left is center Devin Booker.  Booker is Clemson's only real height anymore, except for rotation-fringe freshman center Landry Nnoko, and Booker's only 6'8".  Booker's an excellent rebounder on both ends of the court, and a soild, efficient player overall, though he occasionally takes threes, and shouldn't.  I think Clemson's biggest threat, though, is wing K.J. McDaniels.  McDaniels played in a reserve role last year, and showed some signs of what he can do, but has truly blossomed this year.  He's a long, rangy type who blocks hell of shots, he rebounds; think Darion Atkins, but with three-point range in his arsenal.

Rounding out the starting lineup is guard DaMarcus Harrison, a transfer in from BYU.  Harrison has good athleticism and can get to the rim, but hasn't figured out the art of the three-ball yet; he shot 26.5% last year and has started this year 3-for-16, which is....lousy.  Clemson brings freshmen Adonis Filer and Jordan Roper off the bench for a four-guard rotation that used to be five, Filer being Hall's backup at point.  He's been rather inefficient this year, as freshman PGs tend to be; the smallish Roper has been a better shooter so far, but doesn't draw any fouls.  They'll go small at times, out of necessity, otherwise Booker and Sullivan would never get off the court.

In this one shot at a pre-expansion 18-game schedule, Clemson drew a pretty good one; they'll see UNC and Duke only once each.  They also get Wake only once, but you can't be choosy.  They may struggle against bigger teams if they don't reinstate Jennings, and are awfully young and inexperienced, but Brad Brownell has them, like many ACC teams, on a slow but steady upward trajectory.  They'll probably hover around .500 in the league again, but whereas last year that wasn't good enough for any postseason play, it should be this time around, particularly since their overall record won't also be mired around the midpoint mark.


I have very little to say about last night's win over Tennessee, other than that, yes, we are probably looking at a tournament season as long as we take care of business in the conference.  By which I mean score 10 or 11 wins.  Also as long as the injury bug doesn't kick us in the face again.  Which it's trying very hard to do, what with Jontel Evans going off and not coming back.  Whitey Reid assures us, however, that it's just a flare-up.  Not that I don't believe Whitelaw, who tends to know what he's talking about, but I also know what happens to Virginia players whose injuries are only temporary.  Like when Mike Scott's ankle surgery flared back up.  That was cool.

Anyway, Bub will miss the Mississippi Valley State game, which we could probably win if we sent five folding chairs out for the opening tip, and after that is exam break, so there's plenty of rest available.  I want Evans back before the ACC schedule starts, though; you saw how rusty he was against Wisconsin.  (Plus he's one of my favorite players because he wakes up every morning and puts "What's good world" on the twittermachine.  It's the little things.  It's not a morning twitter check to see what news the world has produced for me until "What's good world" has popped up on there.  So I don't want his senior season derailed by a stupid balky foot.)

But.  The game itself.  Slightly less of a brick factory than Tennessee's Georgetown contest, but still.  I tell you what, though, once our guys get a little better at finishing at the rim, these games might not be all that close.  I don't know how many points we leave on the board that way, but it's probably eight to ten, in both the Wiscy and UT games.  But I'm continually amazed at the array of offensive skills Akil Mitchell and Darion Atkins have picked up.  It's like the ghost of Mike Scott still haunts the floor.  A few of those shots that they put in were some of Mike Scott's favorites.

Four cuppycakes now stand between us today and the ACC season opening with a bang against UNC.  No reason we shouldn't wrap up the old year at 11-2 and start the new one feeling fully confident about our chances (probably only to be smacked back to earth by zebras in thinly disguised Carolina colors.)

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