Wednesday, March 16

Up next for Clemson, WVU

After dismantling the Blazers, well all except their three point shooting, the Tigers were rewarded with a late night flight to Tampa.

In Tampa, the Tigers will take on Bob "Huggy Bear" Huggins and his West Virginia Mountaineers- err whatever this mascot is:

You cannot argue with the man's sense of style. It is impeccable.

Clemson has experience in the stylings of  the "Huggy Bear" as they played against Huggins, back in his formative training track suit days of Cincinnati. The Tigers lead by point guard Ed Scott and the Shyatt, defeated the Bearcats 58-51 December 2002 in Anderson while Littlejohn was being renovated. This was a long time ago. Two Coaches ago. And miles and miles of fashion ago.

Oh, well, maybe not. 

Huggy still sports the tracksuit.

Clemson also has experience playing against WVU, to whom they lost in the NIT finals. That was a coach ago for both schools.

If you are looking forward to what outfit Huggins will be wearing tomorrow in Tampa, here is the link to get your tickets. I am betting on a tracksuit, but hoping for the pimpsuit.

About last night's game. If you watched it, you saw a dominating inside performance by the Jerai Grant and the Tigers. Jerai finished  with a career high 22 pts. However, despite the 18 pt. win, they could not stop the outside shooting of the UAB Blazers. 

UAB finished 18-48 shooting, but of the 18 made baskets, 12 were 3pts. and the rest of the points came from FTs.

The Tigers did not let the barrage of 3s stop them. Every time UAB tried to start a run, the Tigers would clamp down on defense. They played tough man-to-man defense and came away with 10 stls, coupled with UABs 19 TOs.

Though I was fearful of a UNC-like collapse, I was glad not to see it.

Looking back, it was a mismatch. Clemson played like they wanted to win. UAB didn't let that deter them through the early lead, but didn't really adjust. It was obvious that Brownell had the Tigers prepared for what they were going to face.

Let's hope he can do the same against another high-caliber coach including his fashion sense.

Here are some links about last night's game:

Game time in 24 hrs.

Monday, March 14

Clemson brings it to the NCAA with a 12.5 seed

After the predictable overtime loss to UNC, Clemson was rewarded  with a 12.5 seed, while the team to which they lost was given a 2 seed. I say predictable because this was UNC after all. And, the conference wouldn't let Clemson stop the sale of tickets for the final round of the ACC tournament with the possibility of a Duke-UNC rematch would they? Of course not. Duke-UNC is the reason the ACC was awarded such a TV contract in the first place. If the ACC can't live up to promise of Duke-UNC tri-annual clause in the TV contract, then the conract is probably null.

I am sure this make Brad Brownell and the Tigers happy.

While it is one thing to get into the tournament, it is another to play a "play-in" game. This nomenclature implies that they are not actually in the tournament. Calling it the "First Four" doesn't help either.

Make these games part of the tournament, or don't. Call the rest of the field the Bye-round if you must, but to call the teams who have to play an extra game play-ins is insulting not just to the teams, but also to the meaningfulness of the tournament itself.

Clemson is set up for failure. They have a 9pm game Tuesday  in Dayton, OH. Then, should they win, they have to get on a plane to Tampa, FL, for a 12:15, or whatever, game against WVU on Thursday.

Oh, and in case you didn't know, Clemson is playing tomorrow on TV.
The game will be on TruTV.  Yes, this is apparently a television channel.

But, beyond that, what is up with the 12.5 seed. Really?

According to some places, Clemson is a 4.5 favorite.
To others with the science of computers, it is a toss-up.

Now, we are off to Dayton.

This is Brownell's old stomping ground, via Wright State.

I don't know exactly what this means for the team, but I am hoping for a win.

Friday, March 11

Clemson Throttles 70-47

The VT win at Littlejohn seems so long ago.

Today, it was all about winning- sheen style.

Nope BC. Today, it was you who got pants-ed (from the ESPN)

After the early win by UNC with no time left, most of the decidedly Carolina, of the northern variety, crowd left. It was a much more intimate crowd. As much as it could have been with thousands of people.

Nonetheless, Clemson did not let the empty seats bother them. They came out strong. BC never really was in the game. Trapani did what he could, but just like when Stitt kept a lock on Smith in Cameron, he kept it even tighter on the other All-ACC guard, Reggie Jackson, who the Tigers held to 11 points.

Trapani, the hardest working man in the biz according to some finished with 20 points. Nice work Trap-ster.

But let's talk about the Tigers.

The game seemed slow in spots.

But, the Tigers were methodical. they attacked the basket. They hit outside shots. They played defense.

Of course, Brownell was working the team throughout.

While Stitt played well throughout, what about Zavier Anderson? Blocked shot, check; assist, check; steal, check; seven points, five rebounds. I wonder if other teams just feel really bad when a walk-on, or former walk-on, or whatever has this kind of line? 

Overall, it was a complete team effort. Even Bobo got into the action today. 

But tomorrow it will take even more. UNC has had the Tigers' number this season- and well  really, forever.

If not for the Buckner dunk, I don't even know if Clemson would have ever beaten UNC in the state of North Carolina- because we all know the Chapel Hill record, 0- forever.

Tomorrow, the Tigers are going to have to regroup. This win, was just that- a win. It helped them in term of their NCAA bid prospects, but a win vs. UNC would help even more.

Brownell knows how to win. He has won conference tournaments at both of his previous head coaching stops. And while I don't know if the Tigers are ready to win the entire ACC tournament, why not try? The Tarheels are lead by freshmen. If Clemson can use their senior leadership, it could get interesting tomorrow and on into Sunday.

A win vs. UNC would be a guaranteed NCAA berth. A strong showing would solidify a berth. A blowout loss, which has not happened all season, firstly would be unacceptable, but also might hurt the Tigers too much with the other conference's upsets and various twists and turns.

Here is a collection of links to keep your interest high and help you carry on into tomorrow:

Photo Galleries:

Go Tigers.

Thursday, March 3

Clemson Basketball, it all comes down to the final game

So I watched the ESPN recap just now of last night's game against Duke after being at the game last night in the Rat's nest, the belly of the whale, or whatever.
Even the the title of the link, "Duke Cruises past Clemson" seems misleading. Duke did no cruising, not even of any kind.

It was a hard-fought game. It was an ugly game. It was a game the Tigers could have- might even should have- won.

There were many bad calls on the Tigers. Many.

But, there were also many bad shots by the Tigers. Many. If they could have hit some of the easy around the basket types of put backs, lay-ups and the like, the game would have been even closer. This is one game in which the final score is not indicative of the type of game it was in Cameron last night.

It was hot- literally, and figuratively. Coach K was throwing chairs, cursing refs. Stitt was jawing at Smith. It looked like Stitt was about to lose his cool at one point even. He was, after all, playing with strep throat legs. It showed at times. His follow throughs were short. His energy level seemed low.

But then, the fire turned on. They were playing, and pushing all cylinder. It was toughness. Stitt played with a drive, that if he and the rest of the team could muster throughout, then the our overall record might be different. It was refreshing to see such fire. He played hard and tough. The entire team played tough.

They really had no business winning or even competing in Cameron on senior night. Still Clemson with just 9 scholarship players took the defending champions nearly to the wire. And that has been the story all season. If the team could just keep that intensity and fire burning, then they would not just be competing with Duke, UNC, whoever, but would have actually beaten them- even if it was on their senior night.

Not until the late 1st half, to the mid-2nd half did the Tigers have enough energy. Their tanks seems nearly empty for much of the game as well, as a long scoring drought kept Clemson from ever being able to successfully overcome the 8 point mountain.

But now, all of that is in the past.

The eked out win over Miami, the sluggish Wake home win, the amateur-hour officiating at Duke, the ugly loss at NCSU- over.

It is now down to one game for ACCT seeding. With a win, the Tigers can claim 4th in the ACC and a first round bye. They can be anywhere between 4 and 7, similar to the logjam last year.

Here are the scenarios:
The Tigers will be the No. 4 seed with a win
The Tigers will be the No. 5 seed with a loss AND a Boston College loss AND a Maryland loss
The Tigers will be the No. 6 seed with a loss AND a Boston College loss AND a Maryland win
The Tigers will be the No. 6 seed with a loss AND a Boston College win AND a Maryland loss
The Tigers will be the No. 7 seed with a loss AND a Boston College win AND a Maryland win
There has been a steep learning curve for the Tigers this year.
They have played with only NINE scholarship players, an ex- walk-on, and a football player. This is a solid, all around team performance this year. 
Let's hope the season isn't over just quite yet.
Go Tigers.

Friday, February 18

Tigers fall to 6-6

Maybe it was the full-moon effect.
Yeah, I'll take that.

Otherwise, there is no other explanation for the debacle in Raleigh last night.

The biggest difference between the NCSU game and the UNC game comes down to a few words.
Clemson played like they could win against UNC- less the opening minutes.
Clemson played like they should win against NCSU- they even seemed to expect it.

The loss, as painful as it was to watch, might be more damaging to the Tigers' NCAAT hopes than it was to my eyes.
Rebounding was poor (38 to their 46), shooting was poor (0-8 2nd half 3pt), energy level was poor.

I think that was the most disheartening thing about the game last night, the lack of energy and performance. I know Sidney Lowe blazer-red is not Carolina Blue, but every game is a must win, especially if they want(ed) to make it to the NCAAT.

The Tigers just didn't seem to have it in them last night. CJ Leslie did work on the defense all night long. The Tigers began attacking him, but they didn't follow through. When the Tigers made big defensive stops at the end of the game, they could not convert the points. It was ugly.

I am not saying the Tigers didn't want to win, nor am I questioning their desire. I just wonder if they came in over-confident.

This was a huge letdown. The game against UNC gave some hope that the Tigers can perform on a higher level, but the NCSU game showed that they can play down to the level of the opponent as well.

Jerai Grant had a much stronger performance than his, well, his absence against John Henson, but he still could not handle the inside like he needed to do. It is unacceptable that the starting forward/center only has 5 reb, the same number as the shooting guard who is literally a foot shorter than him.

And why, as much as it sort of pains me to say this, is Milton Jennings not starting.

Milton Jennings, Bright Spot (News and Observer)
While he is not playing super, he is definitely playing stronger than D. Booker at this point. He is starting to find the game and can keep up with the speed and pace much better than he did last year, or even earlier this year. In fact, Milton had a near double-double (10pts, 9reb) in just 20 minutes of action. Whereas, Booker had 4pts and 4reb in 27 minutes. What is the +/- on Jennings? the past few games?

I'm just out there playing Milton Ball; no one else wants to join coach. (News and Observer)

NCSU on the other hand, had career performances from Javi Gonzalez and CJ Leslie. The rest of their team played just strong enough to overcome the lowly shooting Tigers.

Sidney Lowe telling a Lorenzo Brown to get in his blazer. (News and Observer)
There is still hope for an NCAA tournament berth, but that hope is fading. If the Tigers cannot secure a marquee win before Selection Sunday, regardless of their record between now and then, they will be NIT-bound.

Time to run the table.

Monday, February 14

Clemson deflates against UNC, loses 64-62

From the beginning of the UNC game, it looked like a loss. The Tigers were not playing with the necessary fire. The only thing that saved them is that for their lack of fire and motivation, the Tar heels seemed to be suffering lag from the emotional letdown loss at Cameron against Duke.

Nonetheless, from the outset, the Tigers looked lazy. They weren't hitting their shots and they were settling for them when they did shoot the ball. UNC's lack of early shot-making ability was the only reason the Tigers weren't down by more early.

UNC's big guys took it to our interior. Booker and Grant were complete non-factors. If Grant's two games against UNC were taken out of his season averages, his averages would be higher, maybe even significantly. It must be hard playing against five players on the other team who are built stunningly similar to you. In fact, Grant and his build suit this year's Tar Heels lineup quite well.

Jerai Grant: 6-8; 230
Justin Knox: 6-9; 240
John Henson: 6-10; 210
Reggie Bullock: 6-7; 190
Harrison Barnes: 6-8; 210
Tyler Zeller: 7-0; 250

Here is the recap robot, tigerpawball, to recap what happened during the game.
This game's iteration features some supple, lucid prose. Here are a few excerpts:
You can't dwell on every loss, especially losses to conference teams, even if they are North Carolina. The Tigers have fallen to 17-8. With our record falling to 6-5 in the ACC, we move into 5th place. Our record against RPI Top 50 teams (North Carolina #14) falls to 2-4.
Our next game features NC State on the road on February 17th. The Tigers should have a competitive, but favorable game with them. 
I especially love the last line, "a competitive, but favorable game with them." I don't even know what to make of this. The Statsheet needs to stick to statistics, because the "writing" is painful.

Back to the game, while there are no moral victories in a finite season, this game at least proved that the Tigers can play with the Tar Heels at the end of the game. Still if they could string together two second half performances from much of the team, the record would be much improved.

And what about Uncle Milton? Milton Jennings had his strongest statistical performance of the season: 15 pts, 12 reb. But, he shot 6-14 fg and 2-7 3 pt. Tanner Smith, as much as people love to chide him, had a very solid game. He shot 50% and had 7reb, only 1 TO.

Truthfully, Milton Jennings was the only forward who showed up Saturday; and as such, any criticism of his game is unnecessary because he was doing work for three people. Heck, even Bobo had a better game than our starting forwards.

It was a game of what-if's and looking back as, what-could-have-beens.

Again, the Tigers do not have time for this. They need to stay focused on and within each game. If they do this, they still, with some help from around the league and the country to return to the NCAAT. However, without this UNC game in the win column, the Tigers are still lacking a key, signature win.

Up next is NCSU. Remember, they were up by 19 on the Tigers before a huge comeback win. This time the game is in Raleigh. A similar slow start could doom the Tigers.

Let's hope for better.

Wednesday, February 9

Clemson defends homecourt against BC; wins 77-69

The Tigers looked ready against BC. BC was up to the challenge. In what was a game of streaks, the Tigers were able to clampdown in Littlejohn for the win.

Both seniors, Stitt and Grant, lead the team in a workman-like fashion. Each player endured a minor injury, and each played through it. That is until Grant was on the sideline for the endgame action.

Nonetheless, this is solid leadership from the guys who need to be doing such. While Jerai Grant had 17pts, he only had 5reb. Stitt had as many rebounds as Grant. In fact, BC finished with 7 more rebounds than the Tigers. Offensively, though, BC relied- rightfully- on Trapani and Jackson, 22pts and 27pts, respectively.

Clemson spread the scoring around with four players in double-digits: Smith 11, Grant 17, Stitt 16, and Young 15. This is how Clemson needs to win games, as a team. And now, they are playing like a team.

If Devin Booker can string together two halves, or even 1.5 good halves, coupled with something more than a solid cameo from Jennings, the Tigers could really be dangerous.

The win over BC moves the Tigers into sole possession of 4th place in the ACC- which is good for the ACCT- but a lot of work is yet to be done. Brownell has a solid record over the 10 games in the ACC so far; however, some difficult games lie ahead.  Here is a random thought about Clemson from
Brownell's ACC 10 game record is as good as any during the OP-era.

2004: 2-8
2005: 2-8
2006: 3-7
2007: 5-5
2008: 6-4
2009: 6-4
2010: 5-5
2011: 6-4

While I don't know what that means, it is an interesting observation nonetheless. But we all know what looking too far ahead can do to a team- remember 17-0?

Of the next six games remaining in the ACC season, the Tigers have three home and three away- home vs UNC, Wake, and VT; away vs NCSU, Miami, and Duke.

This stretch of games is as crucial as any thus far this season.

While FSU, BC, VT, and even MD are getting some national attention as the non-Duke/UNC ACC teams that might get invites to the NCAAT, Clemson is not even being mentioned, despite beating two of those teams and losing by two to another (MD).

Should the Tigers come away win the games they are supposed to win they should have at least three wins, which leaves VT, UNC, and Duke- and two of these games are at Littlejohn.

Brownell has an opportunity to finish above .500 in the ACC and give Clemson a realistic shot at the NCAAT. However, the wildcard games might turnout to be NCSU and Miami- both away games. If Clemson cannot (continue? - they only have one away ACC win vs. GT, two wins total, the other was CofC) win on the road, then all of this speculation is unnecessary.

Every game, it seems is pivotal and crucial. I was glad to see the Tigers weren't looking too far ahead to the UNC showdown on Saturday.

Time to keep it moving forward.