Coming into the season, we looked at the non-conference slate and saw five games against top-150 opponents and seven against creampuffs. The goal was to go 3-2 against the good teams and take care of business against the latter.
"If they can reach ACC play with two losses, that would be great, but three feels more likely."
While Clemson succeeded in avoiding any head-scratching losses, they went 0-5 against legitimate opponents. First they lost to UMass, and while that name sounds decent, we pointed out that they wouldn't be very good this year when we wrote our initial schedule breakdown. After beating Clemson, they suffered a 21-point loss to Creighton. They have five losses including ugly ones to UCF and FGCU. Clemson also lost to Minnesota. After beating the Tigers, the Gophers lost to South Dakota and South Dakota State.
We thought Clemson's SEC stretch would be the hardest and it was. Losses to Bama, South Carolina, and UGA are fairly reasonable. All of those teams have real NCAA hopes. Still a decent Clemson team would have stolen at least one of them.
Clemson's defense, without Hall or Harrison, has taken a step back, and while the offense is a bit better, it hasn't improved as much as the defense has regressed. The most compelling statistic may be the proportion of all their field goal attempts which come from three. A season ago, that number was just 33.9%, below average in NCAA basketball. This year, they've been hoisting prayers left and right as they have accounted for 41.0% of the team field goal attempts. They've improved in their percentages, but when a critical possession comes, they are quick to settle.
ACC play now starts and the NCAA tournament is already out of reach. Reaching the NIT may require a .500 ACC record, which will be unrealistic is the team starts 1-6 or worse. They begin with 12 straight games in which KenPom gives them less than a 50% chance to win. Winning in Chapel Hill to start the conference season may be wishful thinking, but this team needs to find a way to beat FSU or Syracuse in one of the next two games or the season will slip away quickly. If not, they may have nine losses before college football crowns its champion. That may lead Clemson fans to skip over the season entirely, as basketball season will essentially be shot before football season even ends.
It's important to remember that ACC play has a way of surprising us. Last year, Clemson lost to Winthrop, Gardner-Webb, and Rutgers and then reached 6-4 in the ACC before eventually burning out.
We'll certainly be discussing the future of our program and Head Coach Brad Brownell. We do hope you'll continue to check in with us as we do our best to bring you hopeful, but honest basketball coverage for the school we love. Please try to share insightful comments in the threads, rather than merely re-hashing your apathy for Clemson basketball, because we know... We feel it too.