This was supposed to be Clemson’s year. Since earning a 12-seed with a team he inherited, Brad Brownell has now missed five straight tourneys. Now, in his seventh year at the helm, his team is deep, they have three transfers who sat out last year, and they have an All ACC wing in Jaron Blossomgame.
But they’re just 13-8 (3-6) and are fighting their way on the bubble, coming off back-to-back wins at Pitt and vs Georgia Tech.
They have no bad losses, and a marquee win at South Carolina, but it takes more than that to go dancing. They’ll need to make their mark in the 2nd half of the ACC season.
Senior Jaron Blossomgame, who was 1st Team All ACC as a junior, leads Clemson in scoring 18.0 points per game. His 3-point shooting has taken a considerable hit from last year (44% to 25%), but he’s making a ridiculous 64% of his 2s in ACC play. He’s big at 6-7, 220, is literally a grown man (23 years old), and can cause all sorts of matchup problems.
Fellow senior Avry Holmes, a transfer from San Francisco, scores 11.4 per game. He’s a knock down shooter who has made 42% of his 3s on the year, and has been even better in conference play making 51%. Two-thirds of his shots come from beyond the arc.
They have several other guys who contribute. Donte Grantham was a highly rated recruit and is now a junior, and the 6-8 wing is third in scoring at 9.4 per game. Marcquise Reed (transfer from Robert Morris) is an efficient scorer off the bench (9.3 ppg) who makes 43% of his 3s. Gabe Devoe (8.9 ppg), Shelton Mitchell (8.5 ppg, 3.8 apg), and Sidy Djitte (7.5 rebounds) all play serious minutes.
An interesting player to watch will be 6-9 sophomore Elijah Thomas. The former top-50 recruit transferred from Texas A&M during the season last year, and had to sit out the first semester of this season. He was inserted into the starting lineup last week and Clemson is 2-0 since. He’s coming off a double-double versus Georgia Tech.
Their offense has been quite good, and is easily the best in Brad Brownell’s tenure. They’re 28th nationally in efficiency. They don’t turn the ball over and they do everything else reasonably well.
Defensively, though, this could be the worst team in Brownell’s tenure. Coming in at just 63rd nationally, they force turnovers and are the 2nd best team in the nation at keeping opponents off the line, but their rebounding has been terrible. They’re 317th in defensive rebounding, which is an area where FSU will need to excel.
The game tips at 12:30 and will be broadcast on ESPNU. FSU opened as 7.5 point favorites.