Clemson University

Brad Brownell was on hot seat a year ago. Now he has a top 25 team

Clemson point guard Shelton Mitchell previews season

Clemson basketball point guard Shelton Mitchell at ACC Operation Basketball
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Clemson basketball point guard Shelton Mitchell at ACC Operation Basketball

Clemson basketball coach Brad Brownell knew entering the 2017-18 season that the Tigers had to win.

Clemson had failed to reach the NCAA Tournament for six consecutive years, and if Brownell was going to have an opportunity to continue to lead Clemson’s program the Tigers needed to have some success.

“Certainly I met with our staff and talked with them about what we were doing. I had a guy who came onto our staff last year, and I told him, ‘Hey man, we need to win,’” Brownell said Wednesday at ACC Operation Basketball in Charlotte. “He knew that.”

Fast forward to now and there is a completely different vibe around Brownell and Clemson’s basketball program.

Brownell received a contract extension this offseason after leading the Tigers to the Sweet 16 a year ago, and with Shelton Mitchell and Marcquise Reed back for their senior seasons expectations are high that Clemson can have another big year in 2018-19.

“Any time you’re blessed to have a back court like these guys coming back, experienced players who have been through the wars of our league, been in NCAA Tournament games… just gives you a lot of confidence,” Brownell said. “This is just a really good group of guys that cares about our program, cares about Clemson, and care about each other.”

The AP preseason top 25 poll was released earlier this week and Clemson is ranked No. 22, marking only the fourth time in school history the Tigers have been ranked in the preseason top 25.

This is also the first time Clemson has been ranked in a preseason poll since 2009.

It has been quite a turnaround for Clemson’s program in only a year as Brownell enters the season with potentially one of the best teams in Clemson history.

“I’m certainly very blessed and thankful to have gotten the extension and to be the coach at Clemson. It’s a place I truly enjoy coaching and have been there now, this is my ninth season,” Brownell said. “Certainly I’m more at ease this year because you know where you are for your family. I’ve got a girl in school at Clemson and another one who’s probably going to be on the way.”

With Mitchell and Reed back to go along with a veteran roster the Tigers have a chance to be one of the top teams in the ACC this season.

Clemson returns four starters from a season ago, as well as several role players that were solid contributors.

“I think Brad’s done a great job. Defensively they’re as good as anybody. They play to their strength,” UNC coach Roy Williams said. “Their guards are the strength of their team. Brad didn’t just grow up yesterday. He’s been a successful coach everywhere. They’re really one of the premier teams in our league.”

Now the Tigers must go out and prove it on the court. Reed and Mitchell initially entered the NBA draft before deciding to return for their senior seasons. The two came back to improve their draft stocks but also to try to do something special at Clemson.

“Definitely want to keep the ball rolling with what we started… Now we want to try to bring a championship to Clemson,” Reed said. “I think we have a really good team. We can go as far as we did last year, or even further.”