No player on Clemson’s roster has ever played for the Tigers in the NCAA Tournament. Clemson coaches and players made it clear at ACC Media Day Wednesday they’re ready for that to change.
The Tigers haven’t made the NCAA Tournament since 2011, and only transfer Marcquise Reed has an idea of what it is like to participate in March Madness, scoring 19 points for Robert Morris in an NCAA First Four matchup against North Florida in 2015.
With the return of Jaron Blossomgame and a talented group of transfers coming in, the Tigers are confident they’re ready to take a leap forward this season.
“This is the most talented team I’ve been on at Clemson by far,” Blossomgame said. “I think Clemson fans are ready for us to make the tournament. They’re excited about basketball, and I think this is the year that we can do it.”
Clemson has three returning starters and three transfers the coaching staff is excited about in Reed, Shelton Mitchell from Vanderbilt and Elijah Thomas from Texas A&M.
Mitchell started 11 games for Vandy in 2014-15 and finished with 103 assists, while Thomas was rated as a consensus top-50 player coming out of high school. He’s expected to be eligible in December.
“The new transfers are going to be really good for us,” senior point guard Avry Holmes said. “Marcquise, he’s a scorer. He can score in many different ways. Shelton is an elite passer, elite point guard. He was a top high school player. Elijah is good on the block. He can do it all.”
While Clemson’s newcomers should make a big impact this year, there’s no doubt the biggest news of the offseason was Blossomgame’s decision to return.
The Georgia native was named first-team All-ACC last year and put his NBA dream on hold for a year to return to Clemson for his senior season.
Blossomgame was named first-team preseason All-ACC on Wednesday and was No. 2 in Preseason Player of the Year voting behind Duke’s Grayson Allen.
“Me coming back to school really jump-started everything,” Blossomgame said. “People were very excited about the team we have, the transfers we’ll have this year and obviously me coming back. The team that we have in place I think is a very talented team.”
Tigers coach Brad Brownell didn’t shy away from NCAA Tournament talk, admitting his team needs to get there. He emphasized that won’t be easy. Clemson was picked to finish 11th out of 15 teams in a loaded ACC.
“This is my seventh year at Clemson, and I would say it’s the deepest ACC I’ve seen. I think if you ask probably 13 coaches right now, 13 out of the 15 think they have enough talent, experience to make an NCAA Tournament,” Brownell said. “We’ve been a very good team in this league. The last three years, we’re eighth in wins. We’re a middle-of-the-pack ACC team that needs to get to the NCAA Tournament. It’s our goal.”
ACC Preseason Poll
Team & Points
1. Duke (85)
2. North Carolina (6)
6. NC State
7. Notre Dame
8. Florida State
10. Virginia Tech
13. Wake Forest
14. Georgia Tech
15. Boston College
Grayson Allen, Duke (87)
Jaron Blossomgame, Clemson (70)
Joel Berry II, North Carolina (45)
London Perrantes, Virginia (36)
Dennis Smith, Jr., NC State (34)