Clemson Basketball: Second Season Begins

There were many unfulfilled expectations of this past football season based on the wild success of the previous six.

Looking at Brad Brownell’s Tigers, one has to ask, what are the realistic expectations for the remainder of the season? At (10-4, 1-1 in conference play) Clemson’s season is shaping up to be interesting. However, using past season’s performances as an indicator, it’s hard to be too overly optimistic. The two words that have been used to describe the Tigers under Brownell’s tenure, ‘consistently inconsistent.’

I mentioned many times during this past football season the feeling of being on a runaway rollercoaster, I suspect this might be the Tigers fate in basketball, too. When looking at the loss of so many players during the offseason, many wonder. Unlike Dabo Swinney, Brownell has used the transfer portal with some success to replenish his roster to add much needed offensive production and depth.

Let’s be honest, the early part of any basketball season is mostly played against lesser talented teams, everybody does it. Although in basketball, there is far more parity.

It’s almost like a dress rehearsal for the real, second season, that is conference play. The Tigers lost a few games they should have won and won a few they weren’t projected to win. Hence, the rollercoaster analogy.

I believe in looking at things as an informed optimist and this is how I will approach the rest of the 2021-2022 season. I will recap the previous weeks games and also preview the games for that particular week. This will allow fans to see trends, see progression or regression of the team. Basketball is a sport where each individual loss does not a season make, nor break. Unlike football, there is some margin for error in college basketball. A margin this team may very well need.

One other huge factor in play this season, like last, is the uncertainty surrounding COVID postponements/cancellations. The Tigers scheduled match-up with Duke in Littlejohn Coliseum, has already been postponed, maybe even canceled. If you recall, it seemed every time the Tigers started to put it all together last season, gain traction, another Covid quarantine would either postpone or cancel the slated game(s). They would then go on a skid. It makes you stop and think, what could last season have been?

In the preseason projections of conference standings, by CBS Sports, Clemson stands at eleventh. This places Brownell’s Tigers in the lower half of the ACC. However, those same projections have Virginia at fourth and the Tigers have proven that may be too lofty a projection.

No. 2 Duke, UNC, Florida State, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Louisville, Notre Dame and Syracuse are all in the top half of the conference projection. Those games are where the Tigers must pull off a few upsets to place themselves in a position to be invited to play in the NCAA tournament. That’s the goal of every team, inclusion in March Madness.

Last season, Clemson finished at (9-4, 6-0 at home) in the conference and earned a seventh seed in the Midwest regional but exited after a first round loss to Rutgars. That is, unfortunately, a scenario well known to this program. It’s become a spur in the side of the team, coaches and fans alike. Will this year be different? In the most recent ACC standings, the Tigers rank seventh.

The Tigers have a well balanced attack. PJ Hall, Hunter Tyson, David Collins, Al-Amir Dawes and Nick Honor are all averaging over 10 points per game. With the combination of an up-tempo offense, lending itself to more three point opportunities, offensively they rank in the top 25. Add it’s tenacious, stingy defense, it’s difficult for opposing offense to get in rhythm. This team possesses the physicality and ability, if they remain healthy, to be competitive in most contests.

So, there is cause for tempered excitement with the possibilities surrounding this team. As far as realistic expectations, if returning to the NCAA tournament is the expectation, if the right pieces fall just right, that could very well be a reality. However, those same pieces could just as easily fall the other way. Yes, it sounds consistently inconsistent but that’s nothing new with Clemson Basketball. We all await.

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