The 2020-21 season could be a crucial one for Brad Brownell. Is it NCAA Tournament or bust?
Brad Brownell returns for his 11th season as the Tigers head coach next season. In his ten seasons, he has led them to two NCAA tournaments.
His best season was the 2017-18 campaign when his Tigers had 25 wins and made it all of the way to the Sweet 16.
However, the Tigers took a drastic step back the next season, despite most of that sweet sixteen team returning. Last season, it was more of the same, as inconsistent play has them on the outside looking in the (again) when the was cancelled due to Covid-19.
The 2019-20 season was a rollercoaster ride that included huge wins over #3 Duke, #5 Louisville, and a buzzer beater over #6 Florida State. There was also an overtime win over North Carolina in Chapel Hill, something the Tigers had never done before. That 59 game losing streak had become something that many Clemson fans felt may never be broken.
With those huge wins came some horrible losses. Like the one to Yale and a road loss to Virginia Tech. Not to mention the loss at home to Georgia Tech to end the regular season while the Tigers were still one of the NCAA tournament’s bubble teams. They ended the season just 3-8 in road games.
Brownell enters next season with a portion of Clemson’s fan base ready for a change and many believe that it’s the NCAA tournament or bust at this point. Although, there is some optimism heading into next season.
John Newman III showed upside last season, averaging almost 10 points per game. There’s former Top 150 prospect Chase Hunter who will be in his second season in the program, after missing most of last season injured and former Top 60 player Khavon Moore, a transfer from Texas Tech, who will also be in his second season in the Clemson program.
Another bright spot was Alex Hemenway. After missing 16 games due to injury he was able to show he may be the three point threat the Tigers have been without over the past two seasons.
Al-Amir Dawes was forced to grow up faster than planned during his freshman season. He had some growing pains early but by the end of the season was showing why everyone was so high on him.
Clyde Trapp comes back as a senior, and should be fully healthy. Point guard Nick Honor will now be eligible, after sitting out last season because of transfer rules.
The Tigers also hope to get Jonathan Baehre back. Baehre suffered tearing the same ACL twice within six months. Along with that Clemson will also have four star forward, PJ Hall coming in. Hall is the #1high school player in SC.
Then there are the unknowns. The Tigers have to wait to see if they will have the help of Aamir Simms. Last years leading scorer announced after the season that he plans to go through the process of entering the NBA Draft. He has not hired an agent though so Simms does leave the option open to return for his senior season.
The other unknown is whether Baehre stay on the court. It will be tough to come back from two ACL tears in the same knee. How quickly Hall adjusts to the college game likely plays a huge role in how high the ceiling is next season.
The inconsistency of this program is well documented. Tiger fans don’t expect Brownell to turn Clemson into Duke or Kansas but most feel they should be making the NCAA tournament more than twice a decade. Missing out again next season could prove costly.