When: Noon, Saturday
Where: Chestnut Hill
Overview: Well, this season has been as big of a roller coaster as we have seen in a while. The Tigers started horribly, then rebounded enough to have legitimate NCAA tourney aspirations, and now have come down the stretch limping badly. It is hard to finger this group as underachieving or overachieving. Brownell detractors are clearly feeling the former is true and frustration abounds. The sad thing is, there has been a lot to like about this year's team in terms of the improvement in offensive efficiency. Much of that has been lost here lately as the team has blown leads or allowed opposing role players to look like all stars.
The seniors on the team have really struggled lately, especially Jordan Roper, and his lack of production has been too much for the team to overcome. The silver lining has been the play of Jaron Blossomgame who has become the most potent offensive player in recent memory. He has more overall game than K.J. McDaniels and shredded the best half-court defense in the country for 31 points last time out. Clemson fans can only hope JB decides to return for his senior season to lead what should be an NCAA tournament worthy roster. If he bolts early, as K.J. did, it is very hard to determine how much of an impact that will have. Clearly the loss of McDaniels took what would likely have been an NCAA tourney squad and made it one that couldn't even make the NIT. Brownell could really use some good mojo at the end of the season and it has to start Saturday.
Most Clemson hoops fans would have taken an NIT worthy season heading into this one. Not many felt a run to the NCAA tourney was possible, especially with two, then three scholarships taken up by transfers sitting out. However, flirtation with the NCAA tournament always leaves one feeling hollow with an NIT bid. Clemson has to get its act together and string a MINIMUM of two wins together to make the NIT bid a reality, in my opinion. Luckily the Tigers get to play the bottom feeder of the ACC in Boston College who is winless in the league. It will either be a boost that comes with a road win or a true and fitting nail in the coffin of the season. The Tigers just haven't been tough enough on the road most of the season, to put it mildly. Tough home games against Notre Dame and UVA also showed the Tigers getting out-toughed in critical moments by the opposition. The wild inconsistency of Jordan Roper and Landry Nnoko are at the heart of the ups and downs of this year's squad. Both guys need to show a little more toughness and fight through when the shot doesn't fall or a bad foul is called. It really seems like if one of these guys is going to be good in the game, it is apparent pretty early. I can't recall the last time either got off to poor starts and rallied with a good to great second half. As seniors, this shouldn't be happening as much as it has.
Probably the most baffling moment of the season for me was the second half in Atlanta when both Ty Hudson and Gabe DeVoe rode the pine after very good first half performances while Avry Holmes and Roper struggled mightily to both score AND guard the GT perimeter players. DeVoe has seen more action since, including the stretch run against UVA, but that GT loss was a disastrous loss that easily could have been avoided (16 assists to 1 turnover in a LOSS?). It is no great secret that the biggest scoring outputs by Jaron Blossomgame all season have resulted in losses. Much like the struggling N.C. State Wolfpack, when JB or Cat Barber have to do all the heavy lifting, it just isn't enough. Now the Tigers have just one other guy averaging double figures in Donte Grantham, who has nearly been as inconsistent as Roper and Nnoko lately. Roper, Holmes, Grantham, and/or Nnoko (at least two of the four) have got to find it and keep it for the Tigers to get the much needed wins in Boston and in the ACC tournament to leave folks feeling positive about the season. 2016-17 will be a make or break year for the Brownell regime.
As for Boston College, they have continued to lose since dropping the first meeting with Clemson in the Well on February 17th. Their last game was a heartbreaking one point loss in Raleigh when Maverick Rowan hit a layup as the clock expired. Clemson allowed Boston College to take a lead into halftime in the first game before pulling away a bit in the second. This is a golden opportunity to take advantage of a downtrodden team and bury them out of the gate. The Tigers had excellent chances to do that at NCST and GT and failed. The result, as we know, was watching first half leads and stretches of dominant play get erased in backbreaking losses. Avry Holmes locked up leading BC scorer Eli Carter the first time out, but Holmes has struggled the last two games with the bigger, stronger Marcus Georges-Hunt and Malcom Brogdan. The Tigers have been scorched from the three point line lately as well, and the Eagles like to jack it up from outside (even if they aren't that successful most of the time). Clemson should own the paint in this game, so shoring up the perimeter should secure a victory even if the aforementioned struggling Tigers don't turn it around noticeably.
Glass half full: So, the Tigers win this game and get to 10 league wins (never anything to take lightly), and VT loses to Miami giving the Tigers the sixth seed in the ACC tournament. The Tigers then beat the 11 vs 16 winner and get a signature game chance against either Duke or UVA (most likely) in the quarterfinals. Win that one and some things could fall our way depending on how other conferences shake out.
Glass half empty: The Tigers find a way to allow Boston College to not go winless in both football and basketball in conference, making it six losses out of eight down the stretch. The Tigers then watch Syracuse beat FSU and make Clemson the 8th seed in the ACC tourney where they lose to either FSU or GT. The NIT passes up the Tigers and that is all she wrote.
Either of these is extremely plausible, so let's see how it goes.