For Clemson basketball fans, Tuesday’s loss to SMU in the NIT semi finals may still sting. For most of the game, Clemson was in control and looked like they would be advancing to the NIT title game. SMU was able to hold off the Tigers in a 65-59 victory.
Although the Tigers’ season came to a heart-breaking ending, the Clemson Tigers have everything to be proud of and look forward to.
The Tigers were predicted to finish 14th in the ACC. 14th. Second to last. The bottom of the league.
There was not supposed to be a post season for the Tigers. No one expected Clemson to have the success that they did.
With 23 season wins, 10 from the ACC, Clemson has one of the most improved programs in the country this year. They have one of the most athletic players in the country and the best defensive player in the ACC in K.J. McDaniels. They had one of the best defensive teams in the country. They sold out Littlejohn Coliseum this season and got fans excited about a school that is usually just a “football school”. They took down Duke, took ACC champions UVA to the wire and took a trip to the NIT Final Four. They lost several games that came down to the wire that, if they could have won, may have given them a bid to the Big Dance.
They got the country talking about Clemson basketball again.
The Tigers finished the season ranked 6th in the ACC and could have had the chance to finish 5th ahead of Pittsburg. The Tigers were tied for 5th with Pitt going into the last regular season but lost in overtime on a controversial call. All the teams that finished ahead of the Tigers in the ACC received bids to the NCAA Tournament (Virginia, Syracuse, Duke, UNC and Pitt).
The Clemson Tigers have no seniors on their roster and are hoping to return their entire team, should ACC Defensive Player of the Year, K.J. McDaniels, return.
The Tigers have improved leaps and bounds from where they were this time a year ago, especially McDaniels, Demarcus Harrison Rod Hall and Landry Nnoko. The Tigers gained a key member to their team this season in Jaron Blossomgame, the redshirt freshman who missed all of last season with a leg injury.
Freshman Austin Ajukwa continued to improve throughout the season and by the end of the season was putting in significant playing time for the Tigers. Jordan Roper emerged towards the end of the season as another key contributor on offense.
Next season the Tigers will only add to their talented team. Patrick Rooks will return back to the court after missing almost all of the season with a hip injury suffered in September. He is a 3-point shooter who performed well for the Tigers during their trip to Italy last summer. He will be able to give the Tigers some major help on the offensive end.
The Tigers will also add two top recruits, Donte Grantham and Gabe DeVoe. DeVoe, a Parade All American from Shelby, NC, led to the state of North Carolina in scoring averaging 34 points per game his season. Grantham spent a year at Hargrove Military Academy, averaging 18 points and 9 rebounds per game.
Even legendary Coach Larry Brown had high praise for the young Tiger team. “That’s a young team,” said Brown of the Tigers. “They are real young. They had a couple tough losses late in the year or else they might have been in the NCAA Tournament…It’s not an easy league but I think [Coach Brad Brownell] got it going in the right direction.”
After the NIT game, Coach Brownell said that even though the Tigers play in a difficult league “It’s been a very good year. I think we have rejuvenated our fan base a little bit and I’m very excited with where we’re going.”
And if you are a Tiger fan, you should be excited too… The future is bright for this program.