The Tigers will play 12 non-conference games with two in Las Vegas and two true road games. The MGM Grand Main Event is a solid tournament for the Tigers to participate in. There, they'll face UMass for the second time in three years, and then either Creighton or Rutgers. Hopefully they can avenge last year's defeat against Rutgers, as well as their loss to the Minutemen in 2013. Regardless, this is the appropriate challenge level for Clemson. All these games are winnable, at least on their face, but would register as quality wins should Clemson earn them.
Then, what has generally been some of the more interesting games on the schedule is Clemson's tour through the SEC. South Carolina is back in the Upstate this year. The Gamecocks looked great early as they blew out Clemson and Oklahoma State only to collapse in SEC play. Clemson will have a chance for payback. LSU and Auburn are off the schedule and Alabama is on. The Crimson Tide haven't played Clemson since a home/road back in 2008 and 2009 in which Clemson went 2-0. They went 1-1 in the NIT last year and should be a solid challenge. It's another winnable game that would be a quality win. I love it.
Finally, to close out non-conference play, Clemson plays in Athens against UGA. The Bulldogs cracked the NCAA tournament field and are a team that Clemson should be playing in all sports as much as feasible. I love seeing them back on the schedule and hope to attend in the Classic City. They play there over Christmas Break so students will be off-campus making the challenge a bit less daunting. A little pre-Christmas road trip to Athens sounds like a lovely way to end the non-conference schedule. Who wants to join me?
Overall, I like the way the schedule lines up. Last year, the Tigers dropped their third and fourth games of the season to Winthrop and Gardner-Webb. There's no explaining that and nothing scheduling can do to help. Starting with North Carolina Central may be more helpful than last year's "scrimmage" against Florida A&M, as they're at least reasonable competition. UT-San Antonio is a little easier, ranking around 200, and then Texas Southern is a squad that finished last year outside the top 300. After that they get some challenges in the MGM Main Event. You'd obviously like to win that pre-season tournament, but the group there is pretty solid so a 1-1 showing would be solid. Minnesota and Georgia will be tough, but they really shouldn't lose any others. Of course they've shown a propensity to drop at least one random game, but overall it's a non-conference schedule that they could finish with around nine wins (hopefully 10) and a good start to building an NCAA tournament resume.