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Clemson Basketball

Sunday Storyline: At the core, Clemson's basketball future is bright

March 25, 2018
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They came, they saw, they didn't quite conquer, but the 2017 Clemson Tiger basketball team will always be remembered for the surprising ride they took Clemson fans on this past season.

After a disappointing 2016 season, it appeared the program under Brad Brownell was never going to achieve the success many close to Clemson basketball desire, but Brownell had other ideas. 

A new attitude was introduced to the team and "Clemson Grit" was born.

A new attitude was introduced to the team and "Clemson Grit" was born.

Even so, few would have assumed this season would conclude with a berth in the Sweet 16, let alone tying a program record with 25 wins, given the expectations outsiders had for the team.

Even Clemson's early-season loss to Temple left people questioning if bringing Brownell back was the right move. Yet the Tigers would win 10 consecutive games moving their record to 14-1 and 3-0 in ACC play to start the year.

Riding a wave of momentum, the Tigers continued to play well, but January 20th looked like a turning point. Late in Clemson's 68-57 win over Notre Dame, the Tigers' best player, Donte Grantham, tore his ACL in a non-contact injury while having an All-ACC type season.

Surely, the moment alone would bring Clemson's season to its knees.

But it didn't. 

Players like Gabe DeVoe and Shelton Mitchell stepped up. Young guys like Aamir Simms and A.J. Oliver earned more minutes and the program proved that it had more than many expected.

The Tigers earned a No. 5 seed in the NCAA Tournament and knocked out New Mexico State and hammered Auburn before falling to top-seeded Kansas 80-76 Friday night.

Next season, Brownell will lose DeVoe, Grantham, and Mark Donnal, but will return a core group of players who should be expected to return to postseason play. 

Clemson's starting five next season will most likely look like this:

Guard Shelton Mitchell (Sr.)
Guard Marcquise Reed (Sr.)
Guard A.J. Oliver (Soph.)
Forward Aamir SImms (Soph.)
Forward Elijah Thomas (Sr.)

Thomas and Reed started every game this season and were it not for an injury Mitchell would have as well. The "Big 3" will be called on to lead the program into the 2018 season.

Clemson's contributing bench players should include defensive stopper David Skara, Clyde Trapp, Malik William, and Scott Spencer.

The Tigers also have three commits heading to Tiger Town so far including John Newman‍, Hunter Tyson‍, and big man Trey Jemison‍.

Of the three Jemison will probably need to contribute right away as there aren't many players with the size to spell Thomas on the roster.

As for what will be expected, the Tigers will have to find a replacement for DeVoe and his perimeter shooting. Right now, there doesn't seem to be anyone on DeVoe's level in terms of accuracy from deep. 

In an odd circumstance, losing Grantham next season doesn't seem to be a big deal because of how long Clemson got to adjust to life without the versatile 6'8 wing.

In an odd circumstance, losing Grantham next season doesn't seem to be a big deal because of how long Clemson got to adjust to life without the versatile 6'8 wing. The Tigers essentially are only losing one starter and that has to make this staff feel better about overall team experience.

"Going into next season, we can have some fuel to our fire. So, every game we go out there and play, we've got the same memory of that buzzer going off and us losing to a really good team," Simms said after the loss to Kansas. "And you know, we've just got to put that in the back of our mind and let that drive us to getting back to this stage and even higher."

I've called Reed the best shot creator Clemson's had since Will Solomon. The only thing Reed has going against him is size. At 6'3, he runs into many skilled guards who have additional length and that can cause him so trouble.

For the program, Brownell's job certainly seems secure at this point and the future looks bright. Finding itself on the verge of an Elite Eight trip will surely help the team, leaving players craving success and recruits more aware of the Tigers and "Clemson Grit".

 
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