Clemson will attempt to turn around their season this weekend as the 2017 NCAA Tournament gets underway. The Tigers are hosting a regional once again this year though the committee did them no favors with 2 seed Vanderbilt, 3 seed St. John’s, and 4 seed UNC Greensboro making the trip down to Clemson for the weekend.
The big storyline for Clemson is going to be how well the Tigers can rebound from what can really only be described as a collapse to end the season. Yes, the Tigers had to play their most difficult opponents to end the season. But games against NC State, Duke, and Virginia to close the year out were disappointing. Clemson also showed the same issues we saw in their losses to FSU, UNC, and Louisville.
Coach Monte Lee did say that catcher Chris Williams will not catch again this season. William’s arm strength is not where it needs to be to catch, but he will be available to play DH and pinch hit during the post season. While unfortunate, freshman Kyle Wilkie at least has some experience at the position which helps on the defensive side. The problem is that this is a severe downgrade on offense. Wilkie is only hitting .184, though he is getting on base at a decent .326.
Clemson will be starting Alex Eubanks in game 1. Coach Lee is going with the strategy of preserving his number one guy for a potential Saturday matchup against Vanderbilt. With how good Vanderbilt’s pitching staff is, this is a risky move but one that Clemson probably needs to make. If the Tigers lose today it would also allow Barnes to pitch in the first elimination game and hopefully keep Clemson around a little longer.
But in reality a lot of this doesn’t matter. The success of this Clemson team is going to hinge on a return of clutch hitting and fewer bullpen implosions. That’s why Vanderbilt is probably the favorite to advance here. Despite St. John’s numbers the Commodores should dispatch them easily this afternoon.
For Clemson, UNC Greensboro presents and interesting challenge. They are athletic and they are fast. Having Wilkie behind the plate with his arm should help with any speed on the basepaths, but these guys can certainly turn singles into doubles easily. It seems like the key here is going to be to get on the scoreboard early and not press.
Game times and matchups are below. All games will be available on ESPN3 and depending on how other regionals play out it is possible some games will be moved to one of the main ESPN channels.
Regional Game Schedule
Friday, June 2nd
Game 1: Vanderbilt vs. St. John’s, 12:00pm EST
Game 2: Clemson vs. UNC Greensboro, 7:00pm EST
Saturday, June 3rd
Game 3: Loser Game 1 vs. Loser Game 2, 12:00pm EST
Game 4: Winner Game 1 vs. Winner Game 2, 7:00pm EST
Sunday, June 4th
Game 5: Winner Game 3 vs. Loser Game 4, 1:00pm EST
Game 6: Winner Game 5 vs. Winner Game 4, 7:00pm EST
Monday, June 5th (if needed)
Game 7: Winner Game 6 vs. Loser Game 6, 4:00pm EST