When: Friday, Nov 10th 7pm
It’s football season, so I know the vast majority of folks aren’t paying much attention to this season opening game vs. Western Carolina. The most notable thing about this game, by far, is the official visit of Spartanburg Day superstar Zion Williamson. Needless to say, Zion would be a much, much needed shot in the arm to what has been a fairly stagnated program under Brad Brownell should Clemson secure his pledge (the early signing window for basketball is opening now). He is certainly worth the price of admission and packs every gym he plays in as a high school kid already.
The Tigers are coming off a troubling loss to Tennessee in a charity exhibition where some of the same old problems from last year reared their head. The Tigers had a subpar offensive night from Donte Grantham and were victimized on the offensive glass. When teams start breaking 70 points on Brownell’s teams, the winning percentage goes way down over the course of his time at Clemson. The Vols, led by ex-Tiger coach Rick Barnes (who oversaw one of the best times in Clemson hoops history), got to 71 and it was enough for the win. Time will tell how good the Vols end up being as they are picked low in the SEC but have, in my opinion, an excellent coach who will surpass those expectations.
Western is a bottom feeder in the Southern Conference coming off a 9 win season AND having to replace its top 3 scorers from last year. This is a game the Tigers should easily win and any struggles beyond the first 10 minutes of the game should raise some red flags. There is plenty to play for here for Clemson as they try to impress the best player this state has produced since Kevin Garnett. The junior class guards Mitchell and Reed in particular should be salivating at the thought of having Zion on the roster for their senior seasons. Donte Grantham needs to show he can put the struggles against Tennessee behind him which he was not able to do last year when his offensive game fell off the cliff the second half of the season. As we have noted in our previews, as Grantham goes offensively, so go the Tigers’ hopes of being a tournament team.
Eli Thomas got in all kinds of foul trouble vs. Tennessee, and his absence puts a serious strain on what Clemson can do. While transfer Mark Donnell is a welcome addition, and quite frankly an upgrade to now departed uber-project Legend Robertin, he is not the inside presence Thomas is and not a tremendous defender inside. If I’m playing Clemson, I’m trying to attack Thomas on defense and get him out of the game. Thomas has to be smart and pick his spots to be aggressive. Brownell is not much of a zone guy but I would look to play a lot more of it this year if I were him, simply to protect Thomas if nothing else.
Clemson’s guard play and overall athleticism should be way too much for Western to handle, and if you are in town early to get ready for the FSU game, you should consider trying to go if you want to help the sign Zion movement.