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The state of Clemson basketball

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If you saw the horror that was that game, then you really dont need to read this recap, but I'll post it anyway.

I've been fighting the urge to look at TNet because its the last thing you should do after a big loss, but I can pretty much tell you its either sunshine pumpers telling you how this team is great and lost to a good team, or people claiming OP should be fired. There will probably also be those who think Terrance Oglesby should be kicked off the team. I don't, but what happened was disgraceful nevertheless.

So theres no point in even looking at it unless you want to get pissed off further, or if you vehemently believe in one or the other then you shouldn't read the rest of this post.

Clemson basketball is in the best position it has been in during its history. We've won more games the last few years than ever before. We're recruiting better than we have since the days when Horace Grant and Dale Davis were here. Overall, we rebound great, we shoot well most of the time, and we have a good bench. We have a good coach who, if you have a brain, you want to keep as much as I do and who deserves his salary.

But as much as I like Purnell and the job he has done with Clemson basketball, I do not relieve him from blame. We have several problems that have been exposed on this year's squad that were not fixed.

Our offense:

Clemson runs a lot of set plays in the offense, particularly the cut, and uses them to set up shots from the perimeter or to attack the basket from the high post. We have true shooters in Rivers and Oglesby, but neither is a consistent high scorer. Rivers is close, but he's not at the game-changing level of a Vasquez or Teague, you must admit. In addition, having him and TO on the court at the same time gives you nothing, because Rivers is not a true PG. They essentially have the same skillset offensively.

What we missed down the stretch was Guard play that creates opportunities to score in the half-court. I've complained that we need someone who can take the team on his back and carry them when they play like crap, can consistently deliver 18-20 ppg, and can attack the basket directly. I suppose what I'm really getting at is that this team lacks leadership. We do have guys (like Stitt) who will try to strike up the lane, but they don't keep doing it.

Coaching is about teaching controlled aggression, and they haven't been taught how to do take it inside well enough. I think this is Purnell's problem, but experience of the player is a factor.

Our inside game attacks from the high post in many sets, which is fine, but I, like many of you, believe that Booker has the talent to completely take over a game inside. I think he can score 20+ ppg. His problem is that when he seems to botch a play on defense, it affects him on offense, and vice versa. He got called for fouls a lot last year for being aggressive on defense, but this year his fouls went down and points went up. However, down the stretch, you'd see him let men go inside without challenging at all. He even steps out of their way at times. Sometimes you have to, to not draw a silly foul, but there is a fine line between being mean and being stupid on the basketball court. Trevor Booker must step up and become the kind of leader from an emotional standpoint that this team needs, but a low-post scorer cannot do it by himself, you have to have someone who can pass the ball to him in there.

And, when we just don't shoot well, which will happen to everyone, the team forgets their fundamentals and plays sloppier by trying to force things to happen. They just pass the ball around waiting for someone to do something, and since we are not the best at passing, we turn it over. That is the coach's responsibility to correct: passing (particularly inbound passing) and dribbling are fundamentals that you're supposed to know by college, and the mental status of the team is something only he can correct.

Our defense:

Purnell brought the full-court press with him, and against lesser opponents it clearly does what its supposed to do. Clemson uses it for 3/4 of just about every game and the idea behind it (pressing so long) is to wear down the other team and then in that last 10min of the game, they are too tired to put a run on you to win the game. I don't have a single problem with the defensive philosophy.

Some fans like to throw the idea that the press is outdated. These are the same kind of people who think that the I-formation or the option have no place in football anymore. If you are one of those people, then take a step back and watch more sports, because you clearly have no perspective.

My problem is with Purnell's strategy is that he sticks with the same routine every game. When our full court press is getting us killed in transition, he stays with it. He does not switch down to a half-court defense until its too late. Some teams pass well and can eat up the press, like Wake Forest or UNC, and in those cases we stuck with it. I understand his reasoning for why he does it, and theres no need for knee-jerk reactions if a team just gets hot and puts a small run on us, but the book is out there on us and you have to switch it up.

The other problem with the pressing, and this is more important than just the defense being run (zone, press man, man/man), is that the team just lost their intensity. If you press, you must hustle up and down the court to beat the teams that can pass. You must be in good shape and play with energy. Just because you are standing in front of your man does not mean you are playing good defense. You are coached to extend your arms and put your hands up in the air, and we have not done that. When he passes the ball in the backcourt, the other G must RUN over to double-team, not jog and give him time to pass it.

The effort on interior defense I already mentioned. Foul trouble is a side effect that you cannot avoid, we have the depth, so we need to use it. You cannot give uncontested layups and allow another team's best player to just walk up the lane from the key and score. If you have to knock him on his ass, you do that.

Basketball is still all about chemistry, we lost ours. Purnell's job is to get it back. We're going to win 20 games next year, we're going to be ranked again, and if Booker doesn't leave we'll be in the NCAAs again next year. Its not the end of the world and we've come a long way.

But we have a ways to go yet.