The Student News Site of Clemson University

The Tiger

The Tiger

The Tiger

Tiger basketball struggles against ACC opponents: Men’s basketball drops to 13-11 overall

Ashley Stout, staff

Senior Jaron Blossomgame (5) has the potential to be an NBA Draft selection after this season.

It’s been a bad week during a bad month for Clemson basketball. Following a 48 point loss against Florida State, back-to-back last-second losses to talented Duke and Syracuse teams have left the Tigers 13-11, and 13th in the ACC. These losses came after back-to-back wins, but those wins were the end of a six-game-long losing streak. 

This team will not go to March Madness, and future matchups with ACC teams do not bode well, given the team’s 3-9 record in conference.

Unlike many previous Brad Brownell teams, this group does not struggle to score. The team is led by San Francisco University transfer Avry Holmes and fifth-year senior Jaron Blossomgame. 

Holmes is a combo guard leading a strong backcourt rotation with four players averaging 8-11 points. Holmes and RMU transfer Marcquise Reed are both deadly from behind the arc, shooting above 48 percent. 

Gabe Devoe is a willing, if not excellent, three-point shooter who does his best work against teams with bench-heavy lineups. Shelton Mitchell drives much of Clemson’s fast break offense and has nearly twice as many assists as the next player.

With four guards between 6’2” and 6’3” and enough depth to weather foul trouble, one would expect better defense on the perimeter. Brownell teams throughout the years have been known for hardnosed and excellent defensive play. However, this year’s team has struggled with getting back on defense and allowing easy buckets on fast breaks. 

Clemson has primarily played man this season, and the guards, in large part, have reinforced this decision with consistent mental errors. Teams such as Wake Forest and Miami, which have two guards averaging 12 plus points a game, will be able to find consistent offense. The rematch with the Seminoles’ Dwayne Bacon, who scored 26 in their prior meeting, looms large.

The defensive problems continue at center, where a lack of depth and propensity for fouls often forces Brownell to deploy small lineups and hinder defensive aggression.

Sidy Djitte is a capable defender and solid rebounder, but he is entirely incapable of staying on the floor. He is raw on the offensive end as well, limited almost exclusively to scoring in the paint. Free throws have been, and will likely remain, a struggle.

Transfer Elijah Thomas only arrived in mid-December, but he has shown a similar skillset and perhaps a higher ceiling, but he also fouls a lot.

As the last line of defense, both are in large part responsible for the poor defensive communication that hounds this team. Both are able to passably play in front of guards on the pick and roll, and are the team’s best rebounders. 

That’s important because much of the team’s 319th ranked offensive rebound defense begins with struggling to keep a center on the floor. The Tigers were outrebounded badly in prior matchups with Wake Forest and Virginia Tech, and winning the rebound battle in a 48 point loss in Tallahassee is a cold comfort.

Forward Jaron Blossomgame is the team’s second most prolific rebounder and a rare NBA draft prospect. Able to score from midrange, in the post and increasingly from three as a thumb injury heals, Blossomgame is Clemson’s most skilled player. He’s a handful of steals away from averaging a block and steal a game.

6’8” forward Donte Grantham is a less prolific scorer and a liability behind the arc, but plays hard defense and occasionally flashes hints of playmaking ability.

Behind Blossomgame and Grantham, there isn’t a single player averaging above five minutes, leaving Clemson exposed with guards trying to defend small forwards when either of the duo sit, compounding rebounding and defensive problems.

Thomas could fill in capably at power forward, but the lack of depth at center keeps it off the table. With the duo pulling such heavy minutes, leading the team, it’s hard to ask they get back in transition for every basket. Against teams with athletic freaks such as FSU’s Jonathon Isaac, this tends to lead to easy buckets.

Clemson can technically reach .500 in the ACC by finishing undefeated, but they will be lucky to win three of their last six games. The Tigers should be favored in their last two games at home against NC State and Boston College. Other than that, Clemson has a worse record than every opponent left. 

Florida State is a tournament team, and Miami and Virginia Tech both have sixteen wins. Clemson could easily end the season with a losing record and an ambivalent future. The ACC has been a murderer’s row this year.

Leave a Comment
Donate to The Tiger

Your donation will support the student journalists of Clemson University . Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to The Tiger

Comments (0)

All The Tiger Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *