Clemson is a football school. I thank the big man above for that. Waking up on a home football Saturday knowing that Death Valley will be packed full of passionate fans cheering on the Tigers warms my heart. I certainly wouldn’t want to be like Duke, where they ask visiting fans how to find the football stadium (this is a true story). With that being said, we’ve got ourselves a emerging basketball program coming off its first Sweet 16 appearance since the 1997 NCAA tournament. Not only that, they’re an especially likable bunch. They deserve our passion and love too.
Why is Clemson basketball so likable? Well the most obvious is the gritty underdog role they play in the ACC, especially this year.
Even though the Tigers made the Sweet 16 in what was probably the second best season in school history, they didn’t win the ACC nor did they make the deepest tournament run among their conference peers. Even in a historic year, they get overlooked.
You can’t even blame the media here though. Of course they should be talking about the top teams. Duke’s recruiting class had made headlines this offseason, and for good reason. The Blue Devils will start four true freshman this year. They include the Rivals #1, #3, and #5 recruits and then for good measure the little brother of Tyus Jones, #14 Tre Jones. Maybe one is a degree seeking college student?
I don’t blame them. That’s some elite level talent you can win with at a high-level. Thank goodness it doesn’t work this way in football. When we snatch elite football talent from schools in South Carolina, they actually stick around for a while and become part of the Clemson Family (Xavier Thomas).
We tried to get one of Duke’s prized one-and-dones, but he inexplicably changed his mind at the last moment and chose the Blue Devils. We were left wondering why. Turns out his dad was asking for cash, a job, and housing. Yikes. That sounds very against the rules.
Can’t believe you guys think Coach K would cheat. Smh. He turned down money and a house @ Kansas and went to Duke for free. End of story.— West Coast Bag Man (@ExcessDepth) October 17, 2018
Will the NCAA have the gall to investigate Duke. Yahoo Sports doesn’t think so and neither do I.
We have good reason to believe they’ll avoid pursuing action against one of the biggest money makers from their cash cow product, the NCAA tournament. When UNC got caught cheating in the most egregious way possible - faking classes - the NCAA found a way to avoid punishing them. Some frat boys also took the fraudulent classes so it must’ve been a coincidence that the UNC athletes slipped into them as well.
Clemson basketball used to have these issues, though not this egregious, back in the early 90s. Fortunately, those problems are a thing of the past under Coach Brownell’s ability to recruit high-end talent from high school rather than from the transfer market has often been called into question, but now we’re seeing what may have been his problem all along -integrity.
This could sound much different though. The Tigers were very close to bringing in Clemson alumnus and cheating LSU coach Will Wade. He found success at VCU and seemed promising, but it was a case of LSU being too quick on the move or AD Dan Radakovich seeing something we did not.
My column: Will Wade needs to come clean about recruiting allegations at #LSU https://t.co/FOLBxmSozI— Jeff Duncan (@JeffDuncan_) October 17, 2018
Me when I see the names Zion Williamson and Will Wade pop up in the basketball recruiting scandal pic.twitter.com/LHi5DdVtcI— Don’t stop running ETN (@JayIngles) October 17, 2018
Interesting that Coach K says all the cheating that the FBI uncovered is a mere “blip.” As if you need any more reasons to get behind Brownell’s Tigers, here’s a flurry to finish.
We’re actually good. They deserve your emotional investment. The Tigers have two fifth year seniors in the backcourt. David Skara, in a surprise move, came back despite announcing plans to pursue a professional career back home in Europe. Eli Thomas returned and we have one open starting spot for a sophomore - either Amir Simms or Anthony Oliver - to step in and shine. Another tournament appearance is actually a realistic expectation, not a stretch goal.
Expectations have been limited though. We’re very new to winning in the NCAA tournament and we’re not about to take it for granted. The Tigers hadn’t advanced out of the first weekend since 1997. We’re still enjoying the little things and that’s fun.
Lastly, Coach Brownell, in stark contrast to so many others, by all accounts is an honest leader and man worth supporting. In a conference with titans like Coach K, Roy Williams, and Tony Bennett, and highly-acclaimed coaches like Buzz Williams (VT), Jim Larrañaga (Miami), and Mike Brey (ND) it’s hard for Coach Brownell to get his due credit.
It was less than a year ago that most of us wanted him gone, but following a resoundingly successful season and the revelations of so many other coaches doing things the wrong way, it’s very easy to get behind Coach Brownell and the Clemson Tiger basketball team.
Basketball season is right around the corner. Our multi-part season preview will be published in pieces throughout today, tomorrow, and Tuesday (opening night). Throughout these pieces (and moreso throughout the season), you’ll see us reference KenPom advanced stat rankings (similar to the S&P+ we leverage for football coverage). Basketball lends itself well to advanced metrics and here are some of our favorites you may want to be familiar with:
- Defensive Rebounding % (DR%): Defensive Rebounds / Defensive Rebounding Opportunities
- Offensive Rebounding % (OR%): Offensive Rebounds / Offensive Rebounding Opportunities
- Effective Field Goal % (eFG%): Multiplies 3P% by 150% before adding it to the overall field goal percentage since three-pointers are worth 150% of a two-pointer.
- Fouls Committed per 40 Minutes (FC/40): This simply normalized the fouls per game out to an even 40 minutes.
Be sure to check the site for our articles on the backcourt player, front court players, and newcomers as well as breakdowns of the schedule and the staffs expectations.