Clemson: ACC Outlook
Record to date: 8-6.
Strength so far: Forcing/scoring off of turnovers. Maybe there’s been some luck involved as Clemson has averaged 6.3 steals, but they have turned opponent turnovers into 12.4 points per game. For a team that doesn’t score much, those points off of forced turnovers become that much more important.
Needs improvement: Offense. Any offense. Someone make a basket please. Clemson is way too slow-paced to score more than it does (63.7 ppg on 75.5 possessions per game). Clemson is 1-4 against the top 150 and in their four losses, they’ve averaged 54.8 points on 36% shooting. They beat Iowa at Iowa (he Hawkeyes are now 88th), where Clemson put up a season-high 0.92 points per possession and scored 71 points. So it’s not that they’re incapable of scoring. But for most of the season, they have been.
Most important player: Milton Jennings. The uber-talented junior forward was supposed to be the offensive centerpiece of this team. So far, he’s averaging 8.5 points on 45% shooting with just 5.1 rebounds. He’s also had 14 assists to 33 turnovers and just 11 blocks. He’s already been disciplined this season for getting into an argument with head coach Brad Brownell during the Southern Illinois game. He had been moved out of the starting lineup two games before that. In the first five games this year, he averaged 12.8 points on 49% shooting. In the last nine, he’s averaged 5.2 points on 40.4% shooting. He needs to get closer to those first five game stat line for Clemson to have a chance to finish in the middle of the pack in the ACC.
Reason for optimism: Brad Brownell is an excellent coach, and his team’s defense has been very good. Clemson’s offense can’t possibly continue being this awful, and they will have at least a few games where shots fall. With their defense playing as well as it has most of the year, that might be all it takes to win a few more ACC games than expected.
Reason for pessimism: The Tigers are too heavily reliant on Andre Young for points. No one else can/will step up. Young has 180 points this year (12.9 per game) and is averaging 35.4 minutes. Devin Booker is close with 155 points (11.1 per game), but he has eight single-digit scoring games this year. Tanner Smith averages 10.6 points, but he can’t be relied upon in ACC time as a legit second scoring option. Even in a bad league, they won’t score enough to beat most teams, even bad ones.
Surprising stat: With all their struggles on both ends this season, Clemson is 24th nationally in lowest offensive rebounding percentage allowed (24.2). Opponents have scored just 8.3 second-chance points off of 8.7 offensive rebounds.
Most likely wins (2): Ga. Tech (1/21), Wake (1/28)
Most likely losses (7): Duke (1/15), @Miami (1/18), @UVA (1/31), @Va. Tech (2/4), UVA (2/14), @UNC (2/18), @FSU (3/4)
Toss-ups (7): FSU (1/7), @BC (1/12), Maryland (2/7), @Wake (2/11), @Ga. Tech (2/21), NCST (2/25), Va. Tech (3/1)
Best-case scenario: 9-7
Worst-case scenario: 4-12 (I know there are seven toss-up games but I can’t envision Clemson winning only two games under any circumstances.)