Holy reality check Batman! After cruising to a 3-0 start against weak competition, the Clemson Tigers got a full dose of high major division-I competition with the UMass Minutemen. They learned a hard lesson about allowing a perimeter team to get a rhythm early and the three-point barrage ensued. This is very discouraging when you figure the game against Texas Southern began with allowing a lot of 3's. Clemson was able to adjust in that game, but it was a different story on Monday night. One thing is for sure, Clemson has no shot against decent to good competition when it doesn't defend and gets nothing out of Roper and Grantham. The hallmark of the Brownell program has been defending and grinding out wins, not trying to get into a shooting contest with the opposition.
One of the losses that doomed the Tigers from any real hope of the NCAA tournament last year was the one to Rutgers at home in the ACC-Big Ten challenge. That was a bad Rutgers team the Tigers made look good. Rutgers is led by NBA coaching veteran Eddie Jordan who employs a version of the Princeton offense. The Tigers struggled to handle the perimeter movement and backdoor cuts last year with what was probably a better defensive unit than this one. The good news is that Rutgers has struggled a bit from three-point range so far this year only hitting 31%. However, if Clemson doesn't get any better at contesting on the outside, the Scarlet Knights could break out just like UMass did.
Rutgers is led by guard Mike Williams (no relation to the injured Tiger star, of course) and forward Deshawn Freeman who are both hitting for over 14 points a game. Rutgers has been pretty potent on offense scoring over 70 in all but one game. That one loss was a bad one, dropping a 61-58 decision to a poor St. John's squad where they blew a 16 point lead. Clemson will be much better served trying to slow the game down and keep Rutgers from finding a rhythm on offense. The Tigers simply lack the necessary scoring punch to keep up with a team in an offensive tilt.
Not having a truly dynamic 2 guard has been killing this program. Every team in the Brownell era has struggled in that spot. His best two teams at least had a perimeter scorer from another position to help offset that with Stitt in his first year and McDaniels two years ago, but the team has to have either Roper or DeVoe step up and find some consistency or nights like Monday are going to be more frequent in conference play. Last year's team had one very good stretch of play which featured some big wins like the road win at NCST. The common denominator? Jordan Roper played very well and gave the Tigers a viable 2 guard. Unfortunately Roper is not able to maintain that level of play over the course of a season, at least to this point, and his lack of size hurts at the 2 spot when the opposition usually features a 6'3" to 6'5" guy. Clemson certainly can't have Roper and Grantham have a bad night together. I would like to see the Tigers try harder to play inside/out through Blossomgame and either Nnoko or Djitte. Nnoko can help the cause by being more assertive and effective on his touches in the paint as well.
I think help is on the way with Reed coming off the transfer sit out year, but Brownell and staff are going to have a very hot seat heading into that season if nights like Monday night happen more often.
I'm not sure how many Tiger fans are going to be up for this one tipping off at nearly midnight eastern time, but if you are, post away!