Clemson basketball escaped wintry temps in the Upstate for the comfort of the Caribbean and the Paradise Jam tournament this weekend.
The eight-team bracket is hosted on Saint Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands, where highs in the 80s greeted the team Wednesday and will continue through their final game Monday.
An early season reset might be what the doctor ordered after a split to start the 2014-15 season.
Clemson (1-1) dispatched Florida A&M with ease to open the final season in Littlejohn Coliseum, 86-41, but the Tigers shot poor percentages from the perimeter (23) and the free throw line (58) and were edged, 77-74, at home by Winthrop on Monday.
It’s the first time since 2000 that the Tigers have suffered a loss this early in the season.
Junior center Landry Nnoko has posted career-highs in both games this season for a 17-points-per-game average, also among the top 35 nationally in blocks per game (3).
Underclassmen forwards Donte Grantham (12.5) and Jaron Blossomgame (11) join him in double-figure scoring. Grantham’s 25 points in two games is the most by a freshman since Terrence Oglesby in 2007-08 (also 25).
The Tigers open play in the USVI Sports and Fitness Center against Gardner-Webb (1-1) at 1:30 p.m. on Friday.
The Runnin’ Bulldogs (81) join Clemson (80) among the top-tier of college basketball in points per game. The Runnin’ Bulldogs are top 20 in possessions per 40 minutes (79.3) with four double-figure scorers.
The Gardner-Webb frontcourt of 6-foot-5 forward Jerome Hill (21.5) and 6-7 center Tyrell Nelson (17.5) lead the way, while senior point guard Tyler Strange has 15 assists to five turnovers.
Of the eight-team field, Clemson finished 2013-14 with the best KenPom rating (50), followed by LSU (58; 2-0) and Seton Hall (98; 1-0). The Bayou Bengals are a projected NCAA tournament team by ESPN along with fellow lower bracket team Weber State, which made the field as the Big Sky champ last year.
Seton Hall has the top current early KenPom rating (76; 1-0) and will face Nevada (2-0) at 4 p.m. Friday with the winner and loser of the matchup opposite Clemson and Gardner-Webb.
The Tigers’ first game won’t be televised, but winner’s brackets games can be found on CBS Sports Network on Sunday (6 p.m.) and Monday (9 p.m.).