CLEMSON -- Coach Brad Brownell said before the season this Clemson team is not the team it was last season. Brownell feels the same way today. Clemson is certainly not the team, from a firepower standpoint, it was during the Trevor Booker Era.
But as Clemson travels to Boston College at 7 p.m. today (ESPN2) after an Atlantic Coast Conference-opening victory against Florida State, the Tigers can take solace in knowing this: the ACC isn't exactly what it has been in past years either.
No. 3 North Carolina and No. 8 Duke -- which travels to Clemson at 6 p.m. Sunday -- are the only ACC teams ranked in the top 25. Six ACC teams are ranked 85th or lower in simulated RPI rankings: Florida State (85th), Wake Forest (88th), Maryland (99th), Georgia Tech (155th), Clemson (161st) and Boston College (255th).
Boston College (5-10, 0-1 ACC) has already lost to four schools from Massachusetts this season -- UMass, Harvard, Boston University and Holy Cross -- and will start five freshmen in its lineup tonight.
Boston College is one of eight ACC schools to change coaches the last three years. Steve Donahue is in his second year at BC, which in part explains the league's struggles. So despite a shaky performance in non-conference play, Clemson (9-6, 1-0 ACC) still has a chance to finish in the top half of the conference.
Brownell said he's not concerned with the landscape of the league.
"I'm worried about what we are doing," Brownell said, "not what other people are doing."
Brownell is worried about his team's offensive mindset.
The second-year Clemson coach wants a more aggressive team at the offensive end, which he hopes will result in more free throws. Clemson is 10th in the ACC in free-throw attempts (265). Clemson made strides in the Florida State win, making 33 trips to the line, its second best total this season.
Brownell said it's in part changing mentality, part working on skills, that is needed to improve offensive efficiency. Guard Andre Young has improved his ability to penetrate as noted by going 10 of 12 from the free-throw line against the Seminoles.
"Our team needs to have a more aggressive mentality," Brownell said. "Our team hasn't had that kind of mentality. That's one of the things we've learned about our team. Losing Demontez Stitt, we lost our best driver, our best penetrator, our most aggressive player. That's the only thing I've been a little disappointed in from our older guys. I hope they'd be a little more aggressive, a little more confident."
If ever there was a road environment to build confidence in league play, it would be tonight at Boston College. Forward Tanner Smith said jumping out to an early 2-0 mark in league could be big for the team's confidence.
"Any time you can get rolling to start the ACC it's very key, especially on the road," Smith said. "You always talk about protecting your home court. If we can steal one on the road ... it's very big."