If they can wear down Lawson, they have an excellent chance of stinging UNC.
This coming Sunday, both Clemson and UNC kick off their ACC schedules by playing one another at Clemson. The Tigers are 12-1 and the Heels are undefeated going into their game with Kent State earlier in the week. Both are highly ranked teams and were predicted to be two of the three top teams in the ACC this season.
In the past, a 12-1 record by Clemson at this time didnít mean much because they played a very weak out-of-conference schedule. While this yearís schedule is not a killer schedule it is a big upgrade. They have played Mississippi State, ODU, Purdue, South Carolina, DePaul, Mississippi and Alabama with the Alabama and Mississippi State games being away games. They are also a decent shooting team and have continued last yearís trend of taking better care of the ball and being a better passing team (Hammonds has an A/TO of 2.9). I attribute much of these improvements to experience and to Purnellís recruiting of more skilled players the last three years. They now have 3-4 players who can hit the open three and shoot free throws.
Clemson is an experienced team and has a relatively deep bench (Oglesby is an outstanding sixth man), although they donít have the star players to match Hansbrough and Lawson. I expect an uptempo, high scoring game. Clemson needs to make Hansbrough work for his points (Booker, Mays and Sykes will probably take turns guarding him), take care of the ball and get back on defense after a missed shot to combat Lawson and the UNC fast break. If, in addition, they bring their A-game on offense (Mays and Booker down low and Rivers, Hammonds and Oglesby on the outside), then I expect a close game. In any case, it should be a fun game to watch and an indicator of whether the Tigers will contend this year.
If they can wear down Lawson, they have an excellent chance of stinging UNC.
Would everyone else agree that this year's Clemson team is better than last year's? Klemnop still out there?
It will be a difficult task, no doubt. If Rick Barnes were still the coach at Clemson, I wouldn't be surprised if their bigs just got physical with him whenever he ventured into the paint. But I gather the Clemson coach is good friends with Williams, so he may shy away from that sort of rough-housing.
I have to admit that if UNC can get any combination of two players to shoot the three like Green and Graves did in their last game, they become close to impossible to beat. I still think that a three point drought will end their NCAA run short of a title.
I think Clemson is better than last year for the fact that they're a year older, if nothing else. They've also played an incrementally tougher schedule and that should help their cause when you figure in that UNC hasn't really played anybody up to date.
Since it's at Clemson, I think it's certainly possible for the Tigers to beat Carolina but they'll have to play a very good game. It certainly won't fall into their lap..
Well, since I was called out by name in this thread I'll post a thought or two. I simply can't resist a blatant appeal to my vanity.
First (and foremost) I really don't think Clemon can beat UNC on Sunday. That's not a knock on Clemson - I just don't think anybody other than Duke should give the Heels a run for their money between now and mid-March. Objectively, they're just damn good.
That said, this is a better Clemson team than last year - perhaps a lot better. And last year's version was pretty good. In fact if the Tigers hadn't blown an 18 point 2nd half lead at home to UVa or laid an egg at WF or choked the last minute of the ACC Tourney game vs. FSU you'd likely have been looking at a Sweet 16 NCAA team. Clemson leapt into the NIT and took care of a bevy of very good squads along the way to a Runner-up showing in what was likely the strongest NIT field since...well, since the NCAA replaced the NIT as the place to see and be seen. So, from a Clemson perspective we're looking at this season as the next progression that a veteran team would take from a Sweet 16 NCAA appearance. (How's that for orange-colored glasses?)
Gone from last year is Vernon Hamilton. A phenomenal defender with the uncanny ability to create his own shot in the lane, Vernon had become a steady hand for a maturing club. (He also knew EXACTLY what to do in any scenario where an opposing player inexplicably tossed him the inbound pass with 4.2...err, I mean 6.4 seconds left with his squad down by three in a hostile road environment.) Unfortunately what he didn't know how to do was hit a Free Throw. Not a good quality for your primary ballhandler. Replacing Vernon is Frosh Demontez Stitt who appears to be a carbon copy of Hamilton with the notable exception that he's golden from the charity stripe. Back in November Stitt sank six consecutive FTs under 30 seconds to ice a road win at MissState - and looked like he had done it 1,000 times in the process. And it wasn't a fluke as Stitt has posted an 85% success rate in nearly 50 attempts so far this season. Stitt is still learning...still makes mistakes on his switches and help defense, but he's every bit as athletic as Hamilton. All in all, the position is a slight dropoff from last year but close to a wash.
Cliff Hammonds is better all around. Most notably he's being more patient waiting for the three-ball and therefore hitting a higher percentage of them, nearly 50% to start the year. I could write for hours about everything else that Hammonds does - suffice it to say he's the engine that makes the whole thing go.
KC Rivers had the quietest great year of any player in the ACC last season. He's 6th Man no more - and rightly taking his place as the front man of the Clemson offense. In years past there was always the horrible inevitability that the shot clock would wind down and nobody would want (or know what to do with) the ball. Now there's KC. He's All ACC quality. First Team. And if Clemson can finally achieve some league standings success then perhaps we can finally land a player on an All Conference Team. (Seriosuly, go back and look at the last three years. Count up the number of Clemson players recognized. How is that possible?)
Trevor Booker is every bit as good in his second go round as he was in the first. Like James Mays and Cliff Hammonds this guy was just severely under-evaluated as a prep. He's Dale Davis. He's Harold Jamison with an offensive game. He's...well, he's pretty damn good is what he is.
And then Mays, too. Mays who gets a lot of the attention - and perhaps deservedly so. Mays who dominates games with his freakish athleticsim. And Mays who seems to believe that he's already a pro just for having put his name in the NBA hat last spring. Unfortunately he's not quite there...and makes more mistakes than he should trying to force moves that aren't really there or that he doesn't really own yet. Maybe they'll come - and he'll make Clemson a force to be reckoned with. Maybe they won't and he'll cost Clemson some games that they could have won if they'd have just done what they *could* do instead of trying to force what they *think* they can do. We certainly can't live without him...but we have to live with him too.
Jerai Grant and Ray Sykes are both serviceable rebounders and defenders but black holes on offense for anything but put-backs. Grant, however, is already as good as Sykes and my yet be a good frontline ACC player as he matures. He's got time. Sykes will never be more than a long, lanky body. Given that Sykes was the lone long, lanky body last season there's an improvement this year just in having another five fouls to give. Plus both guys got a LOT of minutes during the six game span that Mays sat out - and appeared to get a little more comfortable in their skin.
David Potter and Sam Perry provide support on the wings, bringing wholly different skills to the table. Perry is a defensive dynamo who makes you cringe everytime he touches the ball on offense. Potter is developing as a permiter player who can step out to the three point line as well as make an aggressive move to the basket - either all the way to the rim or of the pull-up variety...but a liability on defense. A lot will be asked of Potter in the next two years as he'll essentially be asked to fill the shoes of Hammonds once Hammonds departs. Sometimes he looks like he can play the part. Other times not. Potter is defintiely improved this season - hitting 50% from three range among his notables. His development is a good barometer of potential Clemson success past this season.
And all of this would be enough. If that was it - Clemson would already be a better team than the 2006-07 version. Better skilled, more seasoned, deeper. Yes, if only that was the end of it. But there's one more guy. And except for the one or two times a years he's playing Duke...you're going to LOVE him.
Meet Terrence Oglesby. More appropriately, meet the first guy you've ever met who truly, literally, in the very essence of his soul has never met a shot he didn't think he could make. If you haven't seen Oglesby play yet - you'll soon understand. And if you have seen him play then you know what I'm talking about. 24 feet? (That's about right.) 30 feet out? (That's a good shot.) 32 feet? (Am I open?) Half-court? (They do call this the "offensive end of the floor", don't they?)
The first time you see it you're not going to believe what you just saw. How in the world did he think it was a good idea to take that shot? He might miss. He might make. It won't matter. The next time he touches the ball - wherever he is, no matter how far away - if he's open he'll be shooting again. And his definition of open isn't nearly as constricted as others. In fact it's more a question of, "can I get this one off?" than "should I get this one off?"
No doubt Oglesby will take some shots this year (and in the next three) that cost Clemson games. They'll be bad shots and he'll miss. But he'll take others that will steal victory from the jaws of defeat. And in the process he's forcing defenses to play in a way that completely opens the rest of the floor for the other four players. And he's got his teammeates believing in him - passing up good post position and drives they used to take for the opportunity to pass to him. You get the sense that they like to give it to him just to see if he can do it again.
He's not the complete player that Reddick was. I don't think he'll ever be (although I doubt there are more than one or two Reddick's per generation) - but he's going to be every bit the shooter that Reddick was. Or, at least, he's started out looking like that's the case.
So, what do I expect on Sunday? I expect that a very deep, superiorly talented team will earn a hard-fought road win. It may be one of the three or four most difficult games of the season for the Heels - yet they'll still win. Roy has too many motivators at his disposal including the fact that Clemson isn't exactly playing the "meek and downtrodden hoping for an upset" role. Better yet, the weapons that UNC has available are almost perfectly suited to dismantle Clemson - big, athletic front court guys along with a very fast perimeter. Clemson won't be able to press effectively and might very well be pressed into mistakes themselves. And UNC is a far superior half-court team.
But it should be fun. And in the grand scheme of a "down" year for several other ACC teams (and with only one tilt with Duke to endure) it should be one of the few speed bumps on Clemson's way to their first NCAA berth in 10 years. And a Great Eight appearance? Or, dare we dream, a visit to the Final Four?
Darn good to hear from you. Thanks for taking a huge amount of time to review the tigers for us and root them to victory over the evil blues-we hope! 3 posts so far since the new board started-you have been a stranger-come visit more often!
All I can say is yuck all the way around. Is a Tiger better than a 'Hole, yes! Is a Tiger better than a 'Nole, yes! Is a Tiger better than a Wreck or that silly creature from Virginia Tech? Yes!!!
But that still doesn't mean I have like them!
Where'd all the Kleenex go?
Thanks for your review of the Tigers. Based on what I've seen, you are spot on. As another poster stated earlier, don't be a stranger to the board.
Klemnop, that was awesome, thanks for taking time to post.
I've said all season long that Stitt is a difference maker just having a point guard that can hit free throws, something Clemson hasn't had since Terrell McIntyre.
For anyone who cares, the Efficiency Predicted Score has UNC winning 86-81.