Midway through January last season, the Tigers looked like they were becoming a force to be reckoned with. They were coming off five straight wins, including three in a row against top-25 teams Louisville, Duke and Miami. Then, Clemson, sitting at 12-6, fell off; they finished the season 5-8, leading to a 17-14 record and no postseason birth.
So, the question now is, Why should you think this year’s team will be better?
Starting anywhere other than with arguably the best Clemson Tiger since at least the year 2000 would be simply irresponsible. Blossomgame would've been the first Clemson player drafted since KJ McDaniels in 2014 had he gone pro. He also was projected to be the first first-round pick since Trevor Booker in 2010. But, he decided to come back.
This year, Draft Express has Blossomgame as their highest-rated senior in this draft class and he was named first-team preseason first team All-ACC, trailing only Grayson Allen in votes. Additionally, he is listed as a preseason third-team All-American team by CBS Sports.
It is impossible to say just how important Jaron is to this team, but it is not really an understatement to say that the Tigers’ tourney hopes are tied to their star wing.
Strength of Schedule
Clemson’s schedule is manageable, and that is definitely a big help. Because the Tigers play in the ACC, they’ll always have chances against some of the top teams in the country. Three of their five games against the ACC’s ranked teams are at home and the final three games of the season, all of which should be winnable, are at home.
Additionally, as Ryan mentioned in his schedule breakdown, Clemson’s non-conference schedule has some cupcakes, but they do also face off with some strong teams, most notably Georgia. Clemson has a good chance to finish non-conference play at well above .500 and really be rolling when they face off with Wake Forest to open ACC play.
Right now, teamrankings.com has the Tigers’ strength of schedule as the 34th hardest in the nation. If Clemson can get one or two big wins that will look very good to the selection committee when tourney time comes around.
In addition to Blossomgame, Clemson returned their second and third leading scorers, Donte Grantham and Avry Holmes, respectively. Grantham has been a starter for the Tigers since his freshman year and now needs to take a leap forward in his junior season. Last season he took drastic steps forward both from the three-point line and the charity stripe. Despite this, he shot less than 40 percent from the field last year. That number needs to rise.
Holmes excelled from beyond the arc before transferring to Clemson but struggled in his first year with the Tigers last season. If he can provide a reliable three-point threat then it will give the Tigers’ offense a new dimension it did not have last season.
In addition to those coming back, the roster will supplemented with some key transfers including a former highly-touted post-player recruit. Elijah Thomas will be eligible by the time ACC play begins and should help mitigate the loss of Landry Nnoko.
Comment below if you think they’ll be better or worse this season.