The Clemson Tigers rode the coat tails of senior forward Trevor Booker for their third consecutive berth to the Big Dance, as Booker led Clemson in both scoring and rebounds, averaging 15 points and grabbing nearly 8.5 rebounds a contest. However, Clemson was unable to get past the first round, losing for the third straight time in their first game. Head coach Oliver Purnell shockingly left Clemson after seven years to coach at DePaul this last summer, paving the way for new head coach Bran Brownell, who did a great job at Wright State and UNC Wilmington. Brownell jumps into a tough situation, as Clemson must find a way to supplant Booker this year. To get a general idea of what the Tigers will look like this year, here is a quick breakdown of their lineup, plus my prediction of where they will end up this season in the ACC.
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Taking a look at the college basketball odds for the upcoming season, the linesmakers aren’t to big on the Tigers prospects in the ACC, as they presently have the seventh best line to win the conference at +1200, and are very heavy underdogs to win the National Championship at +10,000.
Backcourt: The Tigers could have been really good last year had they been able to knock down the outside shot. Clemson shot just over 30% from the outside, even though they often got wide open looks thanks to all the double teams Booker drew on the inside. The Tigers will have a ton of experience back in the backcourt this year, but unless these kids start hitting shots the Tigers aren’t going to be in for much success. Junior Tanner Smith is back at shooting guard, but was awful from the perimeter last season, as he hit just 27.5% of his attempts. If Smith doesn’t start hitting, he will likely finding himself on the bench more than on the court. Senior Demontez Slitt and junior Andre Young were the Tigers best outside shooters last season, and both are expected to be a big part of the offense this season. The player to look out for is sophomore Noel Johnson, who was promising at times as a freshman and should only get better as he continues to get older and works on his game.
Backcourt: Clemons figures to use a number of guys to fill the hole left by Booker in the middle, one of which is his younger brother Devin Booker, who showed signs of becoming a stud last season as a freshman. Also seeing the floor will be senior Jerai Grant, who is the nephew of former Tiger and NBA star Horace Grant. Grant started along with Booker last season and made some nice strides, but really doesn’t have the offensive tools to make a huge impact. The high hopes are still out there for sophomore Milton Jennings, who is one of a few McDonald’s All-Americans to ever play at Clemson. Jennings was a letdown in his first season, averaging just 3.3 points and 2.7 rebounds, but could surprise this season, as he now knows what it takes to contribute at the collegiate level.
Prediction – 9th: I think losing Booker is going to be too much for the Tigers to overcome this season, unless Jennings really surprises and plays like everyone expected him to as a freshman. While I like the hire of Brownell, I just don’t think he has the talent to win a lot of games in his first year. The Tigers best hopes of postseason play will be the NIT, but even that might be a stretch.
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