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Top five questions for Clemson Athletics in 2017

Ashley Stout, Staff
Clemson men’s basketball

1. Will Clemson basketball make it to the NCAA Tournament?
Since being named head coach in 2010, Brad Brownell has led the Tigers to one NCAA Tournament in 2011 and the NIT semifinals in 2014. While he has the highest winning percentage against ACC opponents of all head coaches, his postseason resume has been less than stellar , the cause of many Clemson fans’ anger. For several years, it has been thought that Brownell might be on the hot seat, but Clemson has shown they are loyal to him and plan to keep him as coach for the foreseeable future.
This season started off promising for the program. Star forward Jaron Blossomgame returned for his senior season rather than leaving for the NBA and the Tigers racked up several quality wins at the beginning of the season, including one win over in-state rival South Carolina in Columbia. Since conference play began, the team has been in a slump and is currently sitting at 1-6 in conference play and is on a five game losing streak.
While it might not be do or die for Brownell’s job, it is clear that the program is not performing at the expected level right now. One of the biggest questions of the New Year is if the team can right itself before it is too late.
2. Can Monte Lee repeat the success he had in his first year?
Last year, Head Coach Monte Lee led the baseball team to an ACC Championship victory and a national seed host of the NCAA Tournament regionals. Clemson baseball has a history of success, but it had been five years since Tiger fans had witnessed postseason baseball at Doug Kingsmore Stadium.
Lee loses several talented players this year, especially potent offensive weapons, such as catcher Chris Okey and infielders Weston Wilson and Eli White. However, Seth Beer is back for his sophomore season and if it is anything like his first year, he will be able to help the Tigers’ depleted offense.
Pitching wise, the Tigers return talented lefty Pat Krall. Krall was instrumental in the success of the team in the postseason, being moved from a bullpen arm to a starter at times. This season, it is likely he will get the nod to start, along with veteran Charlie Barnes. Other returning veterans, including Brooks Crawford and Jake Higginbotham, will look to add depth to the pitching staff, which they lacked last season.
With an almost entirely new infield and several unproven players, it remains to be seen if the success of last season will be able to be replicated and built upon this season.
3. Will students continue to get free tickets to Clemson football games?
Last year there was a stir when Clemson’s Athletic Department attempted to create a program that would require students to pay a $250 fee in order to sit in the lower deck of Memorial Stadium. The proposed change would still allow a certain amount of free tickets in the upper deck, but students reacted in opposition to the idea.
Clemson’s undergraduate student government passed a resolution stating its formal opposition to the ticketing policy and eventually athletics dropped the idea and made only minor changes to the distribution of tickets instead of enacting the fee.
It is possible that they will attempt to pass the policy again this year, especially since Clemson is the only ACC school that does not already charge students a ticketing fee.
4. How will the football team stack up against powerful ACC foes without Deshaun Watson?
Watson is leaving to go to the NFL and Clemson football will have to replace him, along with several other offensive weapons. While this is a natural cycle of college athletics, it comes in a particularly bad year while other conference opponents retain the majority of their weapons.
The Tigers will travel to Louisville this upcoming season and Lamar Jackson will be back, looking to repeat his Heisman-winning season. Louisville’s secondary will also likely be a force to be reckoned with, a problem for the Tigers who will be starting an inexperienced quarterback.
Florida State will be coming to Death Valley this season, and their quarterback Deondre Francois will be back as well. Francois showed his toughness all season, taking several big hits and continuing to play on. The Seminoles have been relatively quiet the last two years and Head Coach Jimbo Fisher will be looking to put them back on top of the ACC.
Watson will no longer be the star of the conference this season, and with the return of two great quarterbacks to these teams, the Tigers will be in for a tough test.
5. Can Clemson’s soccer programs have continued success in conference play?
Both of Clemson’s soccer teams have experienced success over the past few years in one of the toughest conferences for the sport.
This past season, the men’s team struggled at the beginning of conference play but eventually made it to the ACC Championship game where they fell to Wake Forest. The Tigers claimed the title in 2014, but they have not won a regular season ACC Title since 1985, a drought that reflects on the rise of the ACC. If the team wants to continue competing at the level they have grown accustomed to in recent years, the conference record is the first step.
As for the women’s team, they won a share of the regular season title this past year, but lost to Florida State in the ACC Tournament semifinals. The explosive offense was the driving force behind their success, but many of their star players have graduated. The team will have to rebuild and find its new identity quickly next year and dominate the conference again if they want to receive another bid to the NCAA Tournament.

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