Brad Brownell thinks his style gives Clemson its best chance to win in the ACC.
It’s tough to argue against that theory. Brownell is a defensive-minded coach, and his team plays in a league that demands superior athletes to compete.
However, Clemson doesn’t have a history of obtaining those kinds of elite players like the North Carolinas, Dukes and Notre Dames – K.J. McDaniels (now of the Houston Rockets) is the only current NBA player Brownell has signed since taking over the program in 2010.
So he has to emphasize defense, stop the opponent as much as possible and get offense as it comes. The problem with that is the offense hasn’t come enough this year. With three games remaining in the regular season, the Tigers have little to play for, outside of the ACC tournament. Hopes of an NCAA tournament at-large bid have long come and gone. The NIT appears to be eying Clemson, but that’s nothing that’s going to keep the guys playing hard until the final buzzer.
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Still, expectations weren’t high coming into this year. Without McDaniels, who left early, finishing in the top half of the ACC would be a solid result, although anything less than a trip to the Big Dance makes it hard to call any season successful.
Motivation is an issue down the stretch – but not nearly as much as scoring.
Most teams across the country are dealing with offensive issues; it’s a plague on the entire collegiate sport right now. Clemson’s problems, however, are worse than some.
In the midst of a bye week, the Tigers, who host Georgia Tech on Saturday at noon, are dead last in the ACC in points per game (60.2). They’ve been there nearly all season.
“We’ve got to get better offensively,” Brownell said. “We’re having a hard time finding ways to score.”
That’s an understatement. In 15 ACC games, Clemson hasn’t gotten out of the 50s in nine contests.
Brownell said this week that there are no drastic changes he can make to spur better offensive production. He hopes the long week gives his players a chance to work on their shots, and he’ll practice more offensive sets and fundamentals than usual. But it’s too late in the season to really fix the issue. Clemson is what it is at this point, and it is a good defensive team that must get better at scoring.
For now, it’s what happens when the Tigers don’t play well offensively that can be fixed. So can a recent abundance of turnovers. The game has become much more physical, and shot making and scoring isn’t the same art that it used to be. Still, teams that win titles put the ball in the basket at a fairly successful rate.
“Sometimes our poor offense affects our defense, and I think that happened a little bit at Duke,” Brownell said. “We just didn’t play very well offensively and turned the ball over for points, and once things started going against us a little bit, I thought we lost a little bit of our toughness. Those are common things.”