After coming off an incredibly disappointing season in 2012-2013 with the worst ranked offense in the ACC, Clemson Men’s basketball season has been off to a promising 12-4 start. Last season, they finished with a mediocre 13-18 overall record and were just 5-13 in the ACC. The Tigers kicked off this season with their first 12 games against non conference opponents, and only losing 3 of them to Massachusetts, Auburn and Arkansas. The Tigers won their ACC opener on the road at Boston College 62-60, but stumbled against Florida State in their first ACC home game. Then the most exciting—and shocking—win came this past Saturday, where the Tigers beat the #16 nationally ranked Duke Blue Devils 72-59. The Tigers carried their momentum to beat Virginia Tech on the road 56-49.
But with the Tigers’ success building, how long will it be until Tiger fans see their team back in the NCAA Tournament? In their most recent appearances, the Tigers made the Tournament 4 times straight between 2008-2011 but only once did they advance out of the first round. In 2011, the Tigers beat UAB but then lost to West Virginia in the second round. Since then, the Tigers have suffered the loss of key players and leaders, including Trevor Booker, Tanner Smith and Andre Young.
The Tigers are now rebuilding, and this year’s team is young, having only lost two seniors last year, Milton Jennings and Devin Booker. The Tigers have no seniors on their roster this year and have just two players entering their third year in the program, K.J. McDaniels and Rod Hall.
The Tigers are an improved team from last year. The Tigers played their best basketball of the season at home to a sold out, energized crowd at Littlejohn Coliseum against a ranked Duke team, that has really struggled on the road. The Tigers basketball team has been powerful on defense, but is struggling to find some offense. They are ranked 290th in points per game, 284th in assists per games and 244th in field goal percentage
Clemson fans have seen two completely different Clemson teams this year. They have seen a great Clemson team play exceptionally against the Blue Devils, but only two days earlier saw the same Tigers get absolutely embarrassed playing against Florida State at home in a 56-41 lost. Against the Seminoles, the Tigers had 18 turnovers and were held to 30 percent shooting.
The Tigers were only picked to finished 13th in the ACC. Remarkably they are currently ranked 5th in the ACC with a chance to build off their big win against Duke. If the Tigers want to be serious contenders in the ACC this season, they need to continue to be aggressive on defense, but need to improve on offense eliminating careless turnovers, and sharpening their perimeter shooting.
If the Tigers could continue to play at the level they played against the Blue Devils, it is not hard to see them in the NCAA Tournament this year. It will remain to be seen if the Tigers can play at such a high level consistently. The great news is that it does not look like the Tigers will be losing anyone after this season, and the future looks incredibly bright for the Coach Brad Brownell’s Tigers. Fans should be excited about the future of Clemson basketball. If the Tigers continue to improve like they have been doing, it will not be long before the NCAA will once again include the Clemson Tigers with a great chance to win and advance in the Big Dance.