If you want something positive about tonights game, look elsewhere. I got my Clemson gear on, braved traffic and headed to the MGM Grand Arena. Viva Las Vegas, right?
I sat next to a guy who was cheering for UMass, but really he just liked to bet on games. He turned to me after listening to my grumblings all game (I'm sure you could probably hear me on the streaming broadcast), and asked--"What is the deal with Clemson, this is like the same team for the last 5-6 years. Some good players, but no one can shoot--whats the deal?"
I had no answer. These are Brownell's guys, this is Brownell's team and he still hasn't found anyone who can shoot. Drill down into the numbers and it is startling. 1-13 from three point range in the first half. Blossomgame is 4-9 from the charity stripe and the team is 11-19 from the free throw line. Jordan Roper is 1-10 from the field. DeVoe is 2-8 for most of the night before making two baskets at the very end of the game. That 2-8 comes from shots jacked up outside of the rhythm of the offensive gameplan (shots that could be taken at any time in the shot clock). Roper on multiple occasions missed open men on the break or in transition, only to pop up a brick or fumble away another opportunity.
Grantham wasn't much better. He went 0-4 from three and missed badly on some early shots. He seemed to lose his confidence and got consistently beat on the defensive side of the ball against smaller guards on the perimeter.
Inside we did better, but didn't consistently run our offense inside out. The interior was there for the taking, but Landry Nnoko inexplicably didn't want to challenge UMass's freshman center. Almost everything he shot was going away from the basket rather than attacking. How has he regressed so much from his Sophomore year (the answer is the departure of KJ McDaniels, but still...)? Landry has a fine jump hook when he is in position, but it seems like added coaching and technique have taken away his desire to go and just straight up dunk on people.
Djitte is much improved and physically looks imposing. He had a couple of nice moves inside, but he still lacks poise at times with the basketball (i.e. he spazzes out and rushes things).
UMass was the more aggressive and physical team. They forced turnovers early on when the refs were letting them play. They were longer and more athletic. On defense we couldn't defend the three point line at all--Brownell got flat out out-coached tonight. He couldn't make the needed adjustments. UMass isn't supposed to be that good of a team and Clemson was favored. UMass shot the lights out but Clemson played extremely poor perimeter defense, especially late in the shot clock.
So the positives? Avery Holmes looked pretty good. Certainly our most consistent shooter. I like Djitte's improvement. DeVoe pulled down 10 rebounds (the reason he was on the floor despite the propensity to jack up bricks). Ty Hudson deserves more playing time--enough with the ups and downs of the Jordan Roper experience if we continue to lose (I still think Brownell becomes too settled on guys like Rod Hall and Roper at the expense of more talented junior players who he has consistently run off).
Watching the shoot around before the game it was apparent that these guys just aren't very disciplined with their shots. Their release points are sloppy and all over the place. Brownell will likely get another year because of the LittleJohn renovations, but at this point I'm not sure he deserves it. Clemson should be in the Tournament with a good team every 3-4 years (especially with the expanded tourney format). I've been a big Brownell supporter but this kind of effort in November is maddening and a pattern. The past couple of years if Brownell's teams could focus and win all the games in November and December then they likely could have slipped into the tournament.
Purnell did it every year. Other teams are doing it with bad facilities--we can do better, we should do better.
Final note: That UMass coach is something else. The accent, the gel and the lobbying to the refs. He was basically spitting on our players, on the court during the first 10 minutes of the game (if any of you have seen the new BBC series "River" on Netflix, highly recommended by the way, this UMass coach kept talking to himself and swearing at himself until the game was quickly a 20 point blowout--highly entertaining). Brownell doesn't even work the refs at all. It is his style, but you could clearly see how the UMass coach, for all his madness, was able to steer a couple of calls toward his guys.