Season Preview: Clemson
Last Season: 17-16, NIT 1st Round
Key Losses: Jaron Blossomgame, Avry Holmes
Key Additions: Aamir Simms, Mark Donnal
Last season, 2016 was very kind to the Tigers, but 2017, well, not so much. Clemson began the year 11-2, and welcomed North Carolina to town for their first game of 2017. The Tigers forced overtime against UNC, but ultimately fell short, losing 89-86. And Clemson’s season was all downhill from there. The Tigers lost 6 straight after that, and ended the year an underwhelming 6-12 in the ACC. Clemson went 1-1 in the ACC Tournament, before being bounced in the first round of the NIT by Oakland.
But Brad Brownell is slowly building a competitive program in the ACC. For years, Brownell’s teams have had a decent frontcourt, and finally it appears he’s got himself a true point guard in Shelton Mitchell. Mitchell is just a sophomore whom averaged 11 ppg and 3.5 apg a year ago as a freshman. And with the departures of Blossomgame and Holmes, Mitchell will be relied upon to score and create for the Tigers. The additions of incoming freshman Aamir Simms and Michigan transfer Mark Donnal provides more depth in the frontcourt, and Marcquise Reed should be a good complementary piece beside Mitchell in the backcourt.
However, Clemson’s success in 2017-18 hinges on the play of senior forward Donte Grantham. Expectations have been high for Grantham since he arrived on campus, and he lived up to them his first two years as a Tiger. Grantham averaged 10.2 ppg as a sophomore, second on the team, and appeared set for a breakout junior season. On November 18 of last year, Grantham scored a career-high 21 points as he nearly single-handedly took down then 11th ranked Xavier. But, outside of that, Grantham struggled mightily to score last season, and averaged just 7.3 ppg. Grantham has a complete offensive game, and at 6’8” can get just about any shot he wants. If Clemson is to build on or even replicate their success from a year ago, Grantham will likely need to double his scoring output from last season.
Expect Shelton Mitchell to be given the keys to Clemson’s offense, and he will more than likely put up All-ACC type numbers, but he’ll need the supporting cast to step up for it to be a successful 2017-18 season for Brad Brownell’s group. Also, the Tigers go to North Carolina this year as they look to get their first win in Chapel Hill on their 59th try.
Projected Starting Lineup
PG: Shelton Mitchell
SG: Marcquise Reed
SF: Gabe DeVoe
PF: Donte Grantham
C: Mark Donnal