Despite what the ACC media think, Clemson head coach Brad Brownell likes his team’s chances of making the NCAA Tournament this coming March.
The ACC media picked the Tigers, who return their three leading scorers from last year’s 17-14 team, to finish 11th out of 15 ACC teams at Wednesday’s 2016 ACC Basketball Operation. Clemson was 10-8 and finished tied for seventh in the ACC standings a year ago, plus it returns First-Team All-ACC forward Jaron Blossomgame and his 18.7 points and 6.7 rebounds per game.
But this is not the first time the media has picked Clemson unfavorably in the preseason poll. The Tigers were picked 11th in last year’s preseason poll and in Brownell’s previous six years at Clemson his Tigers finished higher in the standings than the media predicted them to five times.
With that said, though, Brownell says his team is going to have to beat a lot of good basketball teams in the conference to make the tournament. Some of the so-called experts are predicting as many as 11 ACC teams to make the NCAA Tournament field this year.
“I think we have an opportunity, certainly,” the Clemson coach said about making the NCAA Tournament. “This is my seventh year at Clemson, and I would say it’s the deepest ACC I’ve seen. I think if you ask probably 13 coaches right now, they all—13 out of the 15—think they have enough talent, experience to make an NCAA Tournament.
“Hopefully come March, we’ll have 10 or more in the tournament. I think we have very good backcourt depth. We probably have five guys that have good experience. We have a couple of transfers in Shelton Mitchell and Marcquise Reed that played as freshmen at Vanderbilt and Robert Morris that can help us to go along with Avry Holmes and Donte Grantham and Gabe DeVoe.”
Brownell feels that is the real strength of his team, along with Blossomgame, who gives the Tigers both an inside weapon and an outside weapon. The senior shot 51.3 percent from the field last year and was 44.6 percent from three-point range on 101 attempts. He was also a 78.2 percent free throw shooter.
“I think we have good talent one through four. We’re a little thin inside at the five (center position),” Brownell said. “Sidy Djitte is a guy that I’m really proud of because he’s a fourth-year senior who has not started yet. He’s just waited his turn. That’s rare in this day and age of college basketball … that guys don’t transfer.
“But he’s a hardworking, tough-minded, physical rebounder, can bring some toughness to our team. We need a little more depth back there to kind of get over the hump, and we’ve got to find some of that in Legend Robertin, who’s an unproven backup center who will play a lot early. And then we have a young man, Elijah Thomas, who’s a talented guy who’s sitting out until late Christmas because he was a transfer.”
Clemson will begin its possible run to an NCAA Tournament on Nov.11 when it opens the season against Georgia in the newly renovated Littlejohn Coliseum.
— Photo Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports