Tuesday, June 29, 2010

ACC basketball preview: Clemson


2009-10 record: 21-11 overall, 9-7 ACC (sixth)

Postseason: NCAA Tournament (0-1, lost to Missouri)

Projected starting lineup: G Demontez Stitt, G Tanner Smith, F Milton Jennings, F Devin Booker, F Jerai Grant


• New perspective

Oliver Purnell was content to go into the 2010-11 season with basically the same roster that won 21 games and made a third straight NCAA trip. Oh yeah, with the exception Trevor Booker, the team's best player who was taken in the first round of the NBA draft.

Then Purnell left for DePaul and his one recruit, forward Marcus Thornton, opted to jump to Georgia. Point is, Clemson would have been stagnant this season without the coaching switch.

Of the three hires in the ACC this offseason, Brad Brownell's the youngest (41) and the one that will work out best in the short term and probably long term. Brownell has already taken two different teams (UNC-Wilmington and Wright State) to the NCAA tournament and has a chance to take a third this season.

• Defensive credentials

Guard Andre Young (54 steals) and forward Jerai Grant (54 blocks) are two of the best defenders in the ACC. Demontez Stitt and Tanner Smith both understand the concept of team defense, although Brownell's will surely differ from Purnell's full-court schemes.

Not all players fit every offensive system but defense is defense and Clemson has the parts to win games with its defense.


• Outside shooting

Clemson had a glaring need for outside shooters last season, after the losses of Terrence Oglesby and K.C. Rivers from the 2008-09 team, and still does.

Sophomore Noel Johnson has the best shooting stroke of the group but is inconsistent and was too one-dimensional to get more minutes for a coach like Purnell, who values defense.

Guards Smith and Stitt are also capable of hitting from the 3-point line but it's not their bread-and-butter. Young led the teams with 60 3s but one consistent shooter wasn't enough last season and it won't be this season.

• One less Booker

Brownell gets a Clemson roster with one Booker, sophomore forward, Devin, but two. Trevor Booker led the Tigers in scoring (15.2) and rebounding (8.4), while adding 2.5 assists, 1.4 blocks and 1.3 steals per game.

There's no one player on the roster who can pick up his production, not to mention his toughness and leadership.

Bottom line

Purnell won 25, 24, 23 and 21 games in his final four seasons with three trips to the NCAA tournament. Relative to other Clemson basketball coaches, he's a genius.

But an 0-3 record in the NCAA tournament will also be on his epitaph along with "he once started a season 17-0 and missed the NCAA tournament."

Purnell clearly prefers the chase (building a program), to the happily-ever-after (making a program great). He left the Tigers in good enough shape, though, for Brownell, who'll be expected to win 20 games and extend the NCAA streak to four.

An 8-8 record probably hits both marks.

Returning players
G Demontez Stitt Sr. 11.4 2.7 3.1
G Andre Young Jr. 9.2 2.2 2.4
G Tanner Smith Jr. 8.7 4.2 2.2
F Jerai Grant Sr. 7.2 4.7 0.6
G Noel Johnson Soph. 4.8 1.9 0.8
F Devin Booker Soph. 4.5 2.9 0.3
F Milton Jennings Soph. 3.2 2.7 0.5
G Donte Hill Soph. 1.4 0.6 0.3
F Trevor Booker 15.2 8.4 2.5
F David Potter 7.0 2.7 1.4
G Cory Stanton Fr. 5-11 165

Recruiting analysis by Dave Telep, scout.com:

Stanton: "The level is going to be an adjustment for him. The system will help him out but he's going to need to scrap and fight for everything. He's a strong kid who will go to the hole and make good decisions, so he's got that going for him.""