Tigers ACC Success: Biggest Reasons Why

Clemson Tigers Head Coach Brad Brownell
Head Coach Brad Brownell has been a big reason for the Clemson Tigers ACC success, through the first 11 games of the conference season AP Photo/Chuck Burton

Big Three Key Clemson Tigers ACC Success at Both Ends

Head Coach Brad Brownell talks about the big three of Hunter Tyson, PJ Hall, and Chase Hunter being key reasons for the Clemson Tigers ACC success after the Florida State game Saturday

The key to the Clemson Tigers ACC success is not all due to the teams Big Three, but this past Saturday’s game against Florida State showed just how important they are. Hunter Tyson, Chase Hunter, and PJ Hall combined to score 70 of the teams 82 points. Hunter’s return proved vital, as Brownell set up the last play for him. Clemson loses a game that they could not afford to without his career high 26 points, and his game winning three point play.

Tyson came back for a fifth season, and his improvement this season has proved vital. His defensive rebounding in particular has been needed as Hall has tried to regain strength from two surgeries. Hall’s continued improvement from injury has shown up in the last five games, where he averaged more than 20 and seven rebounds. Tyson picked up his three point shooting this year. His six threes this past Saturday against the Seminoles were a career high.

Hunter’s play at point guard has been a pleasant surprise. He never played point guard before this season. Transfers this offseason forced him into the role. The Tigers struggled offensively when he missed three straight games before Saturday. His production proved vital down the stretch as he scored 14 of the team’s last 22 points.

Almost 60% of the Tigers scoring comes from The Big Three. Their play on the floor has not been their only contribution to the team’s success. Tyson, in particular, has been sighted for his leadership. All three veteran players helped guide Clemson’s youth, who have been forced to play due to injuries.

Tigers Youth Makes Key Contributions

While Clemson’s veterans lead the way, younger players have played key reserve roles. The impact made by the frontcourt youth has exceeded that of the backcourt. Josh Beadle and Dillon Hunter both have made key plays offensively, while the Tigers battled injuries to guards Chase Hunter, Alex Hemenway, and Brevin Galloway. Their defensive impact has been greater, as they have struggled at times to run the offense.

RJ Godfrey, Ben Middlebrooks, and Ian Schieffelin all have contributed more than was expected of them coming into this season. At 6’10” Godfrey has proven to be a good shooter and inside presence. Middlebrooks and Schieffelin provide more at the defensive end, but Schieffelin has proven to be an excellent passer as well.

Down the stretch of the ACC season Dillon Hunter and Beadle must find a way to overcome their mistakes and give more offensively. This is particularly true as Galloway and Hemenway are coming off injuries. Hemenway, out since December, may not be able to play as many minutes after missing a month and a half. Galloway may return as soon as Saturday against the Miami Hurricanes. No matter how soon they return Clemson still needs a young backcourt to continue to grow and play with confidence.

Brad Brownell Is Doing His Best Coaching Job

Brad Brownell’s popularity among the Clemson fanbase was not high coming into this season. Brownell on the hot seat happens every winter and the start of this season proved no different. Losing to South Carolina and Loyola-Chicago did not help. Both teams rank in the 270s in NET rating this season.

The Tigers switch to a bigger lineup immediately after the Ramblers game has been the difference for the Tigers. It’s led to 10 wins in the last 11 games. The good news is, that even with a bigger lineup, Clemson continues to shoot well. The Tigers continue to lead the conference in free throw percentage. Clemson trails only Virginia in three point field goal percentage.

Even better for the Tigers is that they continue to play stingy defense. Brownell’s teams always play hard on the defensive end, and this year teams shoot less than 39% from the field against Clemson. That also includes teams shooting just 31.5% from long range. Continuing to play at a high level on the defensive end will be a challenge, given the Tigers upcoming schedule.

Large Road Challenges Lie Ahead for Clemson

The Tigers ACC success through 11 games is unprecedented. For it continue must continue to play well on the road. Of their four toughest games remaining only Miami comes to Littlejohn. The other three are at North Carolina, NC State, and Virginia. The game against the Cavaliers February 28, if the Tigers continue to win, may be for the ACC regular season title.

Clemson traditionally struggles on the road in the ACC. A win against Boston College Tuesday matches their most ACC road wins with five. Continuing to build confidence with key road wins improves Clemson’s seeding in the NCAA Tournament. A better seed means the Tigers chances for a truly special run improve as well.

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