CLEMSON — The Clemson men’s basketball team has sometimes encouraged, often maddened, and consistently produced inconsistency to date.
But that’s what coach Brad Brownell expected from his Tigers (8-4) as they prepare to open ACC play against Florida State (8-5) at 4 p.m. today at Littlejohn Coliseum.
Clemson is more athletic and talented than it was a year ago. The Tigers trailed by just two points with eight minutes to play against No. 10 Gonzaga in November, before falling late. Clemson had a 44-40 lead over No. 3 Arizona with 10:24 to play last month, before falling short of an upset.
Clemson has rarely put 40 minutes of quality basketball together. Sometimes the Tigers have offered a paltry few good minutes, like in an upset loss to Coastal Carolina on Dec. 19.
Brownell expected inconsistency from a team with just two upperclassmen on the roster, and the Clemson coach knows the margin for error will shrink in a conference where Clemson was projected to finish eighth.
“There are things we’ve done well, but the problem is as soon as we think we are good at something, two days later we are not very good at it,” Brownell said. “That’s the problem with young teams.”
What is encouraging about Clemson is it is a much more athletic team than a year ago, thanks to the emergence of young players like freshman guard Adonis Filer.
Sophomore K.J. McDaniels — a small forward — is third in the ACC in blocks, averaging two per game for the Tigers, who lead the ACC in blocks with 5.2 per game.
The added athleticism has improved Clemson’s ball pressure on defense, which is one of the team’s strengths. Clemson is second in the ACC in steals per game (8.2), trailing only North Carolina, and second in turnover margin (plus-3.8), trailing only Duke.
Clemson should be able to pressure Florida State’s young guards.
“(Ball pressure) has been good, and it’s been great at times,” Brownell said. “It’s been better than last year in most cases. It needs to be good for us to be good defensively. I think Adonis (Filer) and Rod (Hall) have both done of a very good job defending the ball, and we knew that would be a strength or our team.”
But Clemson also has pronounced weaknesses.
Clemson ranks 10th in the ACC in scoring (66.7 ppg) and it lacks consistent outside shooting — the Tigers shoot 33 percent from 3-point range, 10th in the ACC. The Tigers also do not have a go-to scorer who can create and convert his shot consistently. Devin Booker leads the team with a modest 11.3 points per game.
“We have a defense that has proven to be one of the best in the ACC,” Booker said. “We just have to get the offense going and put it together to have a full game.”