Shakin the Southland >>> Rockin the Suburbs
After winning 22 games his first season, Brad Brownell's squads seem to have regressed a bit (16 wins in 2011-12; 13 wins last year). How does your fan base feel about last year's results?
In Brownell's first year he was lucky enough to have inherited two talented senior leaders in Demontez Stitt and Jerai Grant. Since then, this team has yet to find the combination of talent and leadership. Tanner Smith was a terrific leader, but short on talent. Devin Booker was a terrific talent, but short on leadership.
The roster has also experienced significant turnover the past 2+ seasons due to a number of transfers. 2013-2014 will be the first season that Brownell is fielding a team comprised of only his recruits. That puts the pressure squarely on his shoulders to produce. The fan base is growing restless with back to back subpar seasons. There have been numerous people calling for Brownell's firing on the interwebs. You won't hear that from me, yet. Clemson isn't nearly prestigious enough in basketball to show a coach the door after only 3 seasons. This program needs to be rebuilt from the ground up, which I believe Brownell is doing. The problem with that is I don't believe there is enough talent on this roster to compete in the ACC this year. The calls for his head could get even louder come March.
What's the biggest piece you've lost since last season?
The biggest loss is definitely Devin Booker. While he was wildly inconsistent and took plays off, he was far and away Clemson's most talented big man. Having a big man that you can dump the ball inside to and rely on for points is a luxury that most teams don't have. Taking that luxury away from a Clemson offense that already struggled to score is going to pose serious problems on the offensive end. The frontcourt is now composed offensively challenged big men. I'm not sure how they can replace his offense, unless they decide to go with a smaller lineup.
Who is the player who needs to step up the most this year?
Jaron Blossomgame. He is a former 4* recruit that sat out last year while recovering from a broken leg during his senior year of high school (the break was similar to that of Louisville's Kevin Ware). In desperate need of a talent infusion, Clemson could get just that from Blossomgame if he's able to get back to 100%. He's a phenomenal athlete that has an inside-out skillset that would suit a smaller lineup, should Clemson decide to go that route.
Who is the player UVa fans ought to look out for the most?
K.J. McDaniels is Clemson's best player, but I think the guy that opposing teams should watch out for is Jordan Roper. He's small in stature at 5'11, especially for a SG, but he has a tremendous knack for putting the ball in the basket. He can shoot coming off screens or off the bounce. He's crafty and knows how to get his shot off despite his size limitation. He scored in double figures in 6 of his last 11 games to finish out last year's campaign. He continued to elevate his game this past summer on the team's trip to Italy. He could emerge as the team's best offensive weapon in 2013-2014.
What's your outlook for the season? What's a success, what's a failure, and what's something you can live with?
Preseason polls have Clemson finishing 14 out of 15 in the ACC. However, NC State's site Backing the Pack did a nice piece on the returning win shares of each ACC team. If you go by those numbers, Clemson should finish 11th. Considering the question marks around this team and the fact that we don't have a senior on the roster, finishing in the top 10 in the ACC would have to be considered a successful season. If Clemson finishes as one of the bottom two teams I would consider that a failure.