If you don’t learn from the past you are doomed to repeat it. Clemson hasn’t learned from the past few years and the program will continue to be recognized by fast starts and March collapses. Since the players continue to change, but the results don’t, I will be focusing strictly on Oliver Purnell’s coaching and recruiting.
Oliver Purnell has his flaws, just like lots of other coaches. So why are other coaches able to win games in March and Oliver isn’t?
Flaw 1: Clemson doesn’t run an offense. They play street ball. When they are in their half court set they call it "motion". But if everybody just stands around and nobody sets a meaningful screen, you cannot call it motion with a straight face. Clemson doesn’t have elite athletes at every position (more on this later) or guys that can shoot the lights out. They need a disciplined offense to score consistently. I’d recommend some sort of wheel or flex cut offense interspersed with a legitimate motion offense. They should set hard screens with players coming off tight (shoulder to shoulder) cuts toward the basket in order to try to get as many easy baskets as possible. Clemson doesn’t have guys to break their opponents down off the dribble, so they should use screens to get to the basket.
Flaw 2: He also struggles as a game manager. Clemson’s players have come out of a timeout 2 games in a row down by 6 with under a minute to go, and did not foul right away. This is inexplicable. I’d love to know what they talk about in their timeouts.
Flaw 3: Where is the motivation and urgency from the players. Purnell has two players (Potter and T. Booker) who’s body language is so poor it comes across as if they don’t care. Clemson is notorious for coming out lethargic in games that are on the road or a neutral site. The coach has to find a way to get his guys fired up, or get new players in the game that do care. If you can’t get fired up to play in the NCAAT, you shouldn’t be playing basketball.
Flaw 4: Personnel. Clemson does well recruiting. But are they recruiting players that fit their system? I don’t believe so. If you just watched Clemson lose to Missouri you can see why. Clemson wants to play an uptempo game. They want to press you and create turnovers that lead to easy baskets. This is how they attempt to make up for their lack of a half court offense. In order to play this style you need to have elite athletes at all positions. Quick guards, athletic wings, and versatile big men are key. I’d say that Clemson has quick guards with Stitt and Young. I also believe they have versatile big men with both Bookers and Grant. The gaping hole is with their wings. Smith and Potter are below average athletes for playing the 2 and 3 positions in the ACC. And as much as I liked KC Rivers, he was not an elite athlete for a wing player in the ACC either. Until Clemson recruits ACC-caliber athletes at each position, they will struggle to play the up and down game they so desire.
This was evident against Missouri. Missouri loves to play a fast paced game and they have the athletes to do it. They turn other teams over more than any other team in the country. And what do they do with these turnovers? They convert them into easy points. Missouri didn’t beat Clemson with their half court offense. They beat them by turning them over and shooting layups.
These 4 flaws lead to an inconsistent team. Inconsistent teams will find ways to win games in October, but will also find ways to lose them in March. Clemson has gotten the program to the point where 1st round flameouts should no longer be accepted. Changes need to be made or else Clemson will find itself in more 7-10, 6-11 games in the NCAAT, and more 1st round exits.