I'm going to take a break here and talk a little basketball, because if I start breaking down UGA-Clemson now, well, what will I write about in August? Judging from some of the crowds we had at Littlejohn last year, it seems that some people are unaware that we have a basketball team. Well we do. Littlejohn wasn't just built for graduation and country music concerts. So lace up your sneakers, strap on your Brian Narcisse/ Horace Grant goggles, and get ready for some hoops breakdown.
Recapping Last Year
Record: 23-13 (10-8 ACC)
Postseason: NIT Final 4
vs. S.Carolina: Yes sir we won! 71-57 in Littlejohn. Ole Frank Martin was cussing up a storm
Good Wins: #16 Duke 72-59; 2 seed Illinois 50-49 (NIT); @ FSU 53-49
Bad Losses: @ Auburn 66-64; @ Notre Dame 68-64 (2OT); @ Wake Forest 62-57
Key Returning Players
Point Guard Rod Hall will be back for his Senior year. Hall improved drastically last year, averaging 9.7 points per game while showing improved ball skills. Jordan Roper and Demarcus Harrison, who combined for 69 3-pointers last year, also will be back in action for the Tigers. After showing improvement while being pushed into a starter role, Landry Nnoko returns as the center for the Tigers. The 6'11" Junior from Cameroon was a force in the paint, racking up 69 blocks with 217 rebounds. One of the biggest returning players is actually one who didn't play a single game last year, Patrick Rooks. The Freshman Guard missed the season with a leg injury. Rook's shooting abilities could have helped the Tigers last year, and I expect him to make a big impact this year. While he should have a solid all around game, if nothing else, he could at least come off the bench to be a shooter, like Terrance Oglesby was.
All-ACC stud K.J. McDaniels decided to cut his college career a year short and head to the NBA, where he was picked in the 2nd Round by the Philadelphia 76ers. McDaniels led the Tigers in almost everything, scoring 614 points, pulling down 255 rebounds, and blocking 100 shots. Obviously, this leaves a big hole for the Tigers, and no one player will probably be able to fill Flight 32's shoes. Other losses are PG Adonis Filer, who is transferring to FIU, and C/F Ibrahim Djambo, who is transferring to Hofstra. Filer started a handful of games at guard for Clemson, showing some promise as a sophomore. Djambo, a transfer from JuCo, played sparingly, but impressed many Tiger fans by draining 3's as a 6'10" post player. I wish both players success in their future endeavors.
Early 2014-2015 Breakdown
We don't have a set schedule yet, but we know a few things. For one, we get UNC at home, so we have to shelve the "breaking the streak" talk until the next season. We get Syracuse, and we gave them a good show last season in the Carrier Dome. While we're short one K.J. McDaniels, maybe this is our standard "Holy Cow Clemson looks like a legit ACC Basketball team" game that we seem to have on almost a yearly basis (See:last year's Duke game.) Hopefully our students and fans get that 'Cuse is a bit of a powerhouse, so Littlejohn will sell out and bring the noise.
We have to go to Cameron Indoor Stadium to play Duke and their 6th man, the
referees Cameron Crazies. We get our annual two game series with Georgia Tech (who we've beaten nine times in a row), so expect a home game in Clemson and at least 45% Clemson fans in Atlanta (until the second half, when the GT fans all hit the road). We also have home/road games with Notre Dame, NC State, and Florida State. In addition to 'Cuse and UNC, we get Boston College, Va Tech, and Wake at home, and go on the road for Duke, UVA, Louisville, Pitt. and Miami.
Honestly, it isn't a bad draw. As far as arena atmospheres go, the only games to really worry about would be Duke, Pitt, and UVA. Louisville has an awesome fan base and arguably one of the nicest arenas in the ACC, but it's NBA style design keeps the Yum! Center (yes, it's actually called that) from getting too loud. While K.J's gone, there is not reason to think Clemson will seriously regress. Clemson's best games last year were when K.J scored less because his teammates were scoring more, so if Clemson takes that team work approach to this year, then we should be fine. It will be important for one of the older guys to become someone who we want to get the ball to in a late game situation. I'm looking at Demarcus Harrison or Jordan Roper being one of these guys, but Rod Hall has shown that he can play well in the clutch as well. Basically, our expectations should be to at least make the NIT once again, and view anything else as gravy. Brad Brownell earned a nice, fat contract last year, so he should be at Clemson for the long hall, which I think is a good thing. Look for the Tigers to keep surprising people this year on the hardwood.