Coaching: The biggest ally that Clemson had on its side last season was the tactical genius of new coach Brad Brownell. His ability to game plan for every team and make adjustments during games won Clemson a lot of games it shouldn’t have. As long as he’s on the sidelines, it’ll be rare that Clemson is outcoached.
The Back Court: Andre Young and Tanner Smith provide a senior duo that has been getting regular minutes since they were freshmen. Young is a dead eye shooter and has proven to be a capable playmaker when asked to do so. Smith is a solid defensive player whose improved decision making has earned him a solid spot in Clemson’s starting line up for the past 2 years. They’re backed up by point guard T.J Sapp and shooting guard Devin Coleman. Sapp is a solid playmaker and is stronger than he looks, shown by his ability to finish at the rim. He’s an ok mid-range shooter, and is working on improving. Coleman is also a solid slasher and is a strong defender as well.
Defense: While Stitt and Grant were a big part of what Clemson did defensively, the players who are returning and coming in are also strong defensive players. Booker is strong and long enough to guard most players in the ACC on the inside, Jennings is versatile enough to guard face-up forwards, and Narcisse and Smith are also solid defensive players on the perimeter. Young is a bit of a liability, but makes up for his height with quick hands and producing deflections and steals. The incoming freshmen also seem to all take defense seriously. Clemson will be set up to repeat as best defense in the ACC.
Front Court Depth: While Booker and Jennings provide a solid front court starting duo, there is little insurance behind that, especially at center. Clemson will need 7’2” center Catalin Baciu to prove he can play far more significant a role than he has in the first 3 disappointing years of his career at Clemson. Narcisse is also a guy who will likely be elevated to a starting role and have to play at backup power forward, a big step up in his responsibilities than what he’s had in previous seasons. Freshman Bernard Sullivan will also be expected to play significant minutes immediately.
Consistency: Clemson will need players like Devin Booker, Milton Jennings, Tanner Smith, and Bryan Narcisse to step up their games significantly this season. While all have shown signs of being good or even great players, they have also made fans scratch their heads plenty. If the inconsistency continues, it could be a long season for the Tigers.
Offense: There isn’t a lot of consistent scoring punch beyond point guard Andre Young, and in the past he has relied on Stitt getting him the ball in his preferred spots. He’ll have to find a way to run the offense more efficiently while finding his own shots as well if they’re going to be successful this season and not fall into the droughts that they would at times last season. When Brownell’s offense is running well, it’s a thing of beauty, but when guys get these open shots the motion offense creates, they have to be able to knock them down.
by Theo Jones
Fantasy Player to Watch
Devin Booker's numbers should approach 13 points and 7 boards a game provided he can stay on the floor consistently. Devin's brother Trevor saw his biggest increase in numbers in his junior year, look for Devin to make a similar leap.