CLEMSON — Brad Brownell looks at third-ranked Miami traveling to Littlejohn Coliseum at 6 p.m. today (TV:ESPNU) and sees a program offering a roadmap to success for Clemson.
No. 3 Miami at ClemsonWHEN: 6 p.m.WHERE: Littlejohn Coliseum, ClemsonRECORDS: Clemson 13-11, 5-7 ACC; Miami 20-3, 11-0TV: ESPNURADIO: WQSC 1340-AM, WJKB 950-AMLine: Miami by 6½NOTES: The only non-senior starter for Miami is sophomore guard Shane Larkin, the son of former Major League Baseball Hall of Fame shortstop Barry Larkin. Larkin can play either guard position and has improved his outside shot this season, 14th in the ACC with 13.4 points per game. Larkin has always had good ball-handling, quickness and vision … After today’s game, Clemson will have played four of the top nine teams in the current AP poll. Duke (2), Gonzaga (5) and Arizona (9) are the others … Clemson owns nine wins over teams ranked in the top three, including as recently as 2009 when the Tigers knocked off No. 3 Duke at home, 74-47.
Miami is undefeated in conference play (20-3, 11-0 ACC), and is the highest-ranked team to play at Clemson (13-11, 5-7) since third-ranked Duke in 2009, not because it has signed an elite a cadre of McDonald’s All-Americans, but rather because it has accumulated a rare amount of experience — forward Kenny Kadji was born in 1988 — and developed players in a era of one-and-done players and heavy attrition.
Clemson can never expect to follow the North Carolina and Duke blueprint to success — recruiting the top players in the country year in and year out — but the Tigers can hope to model themselves after experience-rich Miami.
“I hope so,” Brownell said of patterning themselves after Miami. “That’s certainly what I’ve talked about. I think your best years at Clemson are when you have older teams. We won’t get a lot of one-and-done guys here, so you hope to put two or three classes together of guys that get to play and learn through experience and grow up through the program. By the time they are seniors and juniors, you feel good about a group that has been together. I think that’s the case with Miami.”
Experience has always been a valuable asset in college basketball. But in an era where most elite players turn professional before reaching their junior and senior seasons, in an era where there is more coaching turnover resulting in more player attrition, experience is a scarce — and more valuable — commodity.
Miami is one of the most experienced teams in the country. Four of the five Hurricane starters are seniors, including Kadji, the Hurricanes’ leading scorer (14.2 ppg) and rebounder (6.1 rpg), and star guard Durand Scott (12.4 ppg).
“Experience is a little more rare,” Brownell said. “It’s certainly unique what they have this year. There aren’t a lot of teams with it. It’s special.”
Brownell said the intangibles that come with experience lead to tangible results, and Miami ranks fourth or better in 10 of the 18 team statistical categories kept by the ACC. Miami does nearly everything — shoot, defend, pass — well.
“When you have older teams, guys who have been through the wars, guys have paid their dues, there is an appreciation for the journey,” Brownell said. “You come to practice with a different mindset, you come to games with a different mindset, you are all invested. You don’t want to let each other down.”
Brownell hopes he has the young core in place that can grow into becoming one of the better teams in the ACC.
Freshmen guards Jordan Roper and Adonis Filer have had their moments. Freshman center Landry Nnoko is raw but has the size and athleticism to develop into a rebounding and shot-erasing asset. Fellow freshman Jaron Blossomgame was the highest-rated prospect in the class but is redshirting due to injury. Sophomore K.J. McDaniels has improved his jump shot as a sophomore.
“We’re all young,” McDaniels said. “We can do nothing but keep learning.”
Follow Travis Sawchik on Twitter: @travis_sawchik.