After last week's introduction to Boston College, I got a little amped for the basketball season. If the Eagles grow into the-little-sleeper-team-that-could, I fully expect Olivier Hanlan to "Devendorf" the scorer's table after a big win and yell, "Are you not entertained?!"
Unfortunately, it's not time for fun right now. It's time for Clemson.
As you get settled, we'll begin with a story:
Once upon a time, a man named Harvey Grant played for Clemson. So did Harvey's brother, Horace, and Harvey's son, Jerai. Son Jerian screwed it up and currently plays for Notre Dame. As for son Jerami? I think you know where he plays.
Conference Ranking: 11th
Historical Notes: The Tigers have played and beaten the Orange twice, though I'm not inclined to count the first game. It was 1960. Actually, I might not be inclined to count the second game, either. I think I blocked out the entire 2007 NIT. What, you didn't?
What they're known for: Football. Sorry, I really tried to find something, but even their fan base knows that no one cares about basketball. Look, Clemson, I get that playing football may be the opportunity of your lifetime. But I don't want - your life. Mic drop.
Season Summary: Even though Clemson ranked second in the ACC for scoring defense, things did not go too well. Head coach Brad Brownell had this to say about last year, where the Tigers dropped 12 of their last 15 games, including a season-ending loss to Florida State in the first round of the ACC Tournament:
"We'll re-evaluate everything we're doing, but it's not like we got blown out every game or anything like that..."
Yikes. That's your upside? Maybe that's why some think Brownell could be in the hot seat heading into his fourth season.
K.J. McDaniels (10.9 PPG/5.0 RPG/2.0 BLK). The Tigers' second-leading scorer was only a sophomore. A tad inconsistent, but the 6-6 forward improved significantly from his freshman year. He's also athletic and engaging, which makes it no surprise that Brownell hopes he becomes one of the leaders that this team so desperately needs.
Rod Hall (5.7 PPG/2.5 RPG/3.5 APG). Similarly, Brownell thinks this 6-1 guard could take advantage of the way his teammates already respect him by becoming someone they can also rely on. Not necessarily as the guard bringing the ball up, though - as a shooter. Now, it's tough to improve so much as an individual and still be the guy that unites your team, but it can be done. Whether Hall does it next year, is what makes him a key player.
Jaron Blossomgame. Yes, I know there are no stats. He hasn't played a minute of college ball because he redshirted (see below). Like Hall, he's an "if" guy on the Tigers' roster, which is why he's in this category. If he can get healthy and if he can live up to expectations, he will make an immediate impact.
Personnel Changes: Quite a few, so try to keep up. The Tigers are losing their first and third-leading scorers in forward/center Devin Booker (13.1 PPG/7.5 RPG) and forward Milton Jennings (10.2 PPG/6.4 RPG/1.9 APG) to graduation. Bernard Sullivan (1.8 PPG/1.3 RPG), another forward, would have been a junior, but he transferred to Charlotte.
Additions include sophomore Devin Coleman (6-2, guard) and freshman Jaron Blossomgame (6-7, forward). Both are expecting to be on the court after redshirting last year due to a torn Achilles and broken leg, respectively, but one seems to be recovering better than the other. As for incoming recruits, there's JUCO product Ibrahim Djambo (6-10, forward), as well as true freshmen Sidy Djitte (6-10, center), Austin Ajukwa (6-5, guard), and Patrick Rooks (6-3, guard).
2013-2014 Potential: Dicey. Clemson may not have the most skilled players, but it doesn't take skill to hustle or put forth consistent effort. The Tigers didn't seem to get that, as evidenced by the fact that they only took 5 charges last year. Next year already looks disjointed with the boatload of newbies coming in. Someone needs to step up and lead by example. Without this, the Tigers will continue to lose confidence. They'll continue to fall apart at the end of close games. They'll continue to be at the bottom of the conference, and their fans will continue to be apathetic.
If the Tigers find some direction, could they dig themselves out of the basement? Not next year. They're expecting an awful lot from their returning players, and even more from a kid whose season is still up in the air.
Orange Match-Up: Both Clemson (60.1 ppg) and Syracuse (58.7 ppg) rank nicely on the scoring defense charts. But before you think this game will be a grinder, know that the Tigers limit possessions because they don't shoot well. What do we do about that? Force them to shoot. Given the scant experience of its post players, Clemson will work from the perimeter, anyway. Since this is precisely where the 2-3 forces people, Syracuse will be comfortable. On offense, one look at DaJuan Coleman should do it. Do you think a team that took 5 charges last year will get near him? Prove me wrong, Tigers. Prove me wrong.
My only worry is that the Orange likes to play down to its opponents. If the Tigers play scared, don't attack the rim, and don't go up for rebounds, Syracuse can't do the same thing and expect anyone to respect them in the morning. They'll probably win anyway, but I will lose my voice yelling at the television. Seriously. It's happened.