ACC Previews: Clemson Needs Seniors to Deliver

Streeter Lecka

Youngest team in the conference? Lost their two leading scorers? Out of conference matchups against Gonzaga and Arizona? "Help us Milton Jennings... you're our only hope."

No team in the ACC outside of Wake has as many question marks as Clemson going into 2012-2013. Gone is PG and leading scorer Andre Young as well as versatile second leading scorer Tanner Smith, the two of whom accounted for 37% of the Tigers' mediocre 65 ppg team average. They graduated from a mercurial squad that suffered early losses to Hawaii, BC, and Coastal Carolina but scored wins against FSU and UVA and finished with a 16-15 ( 8-8) record.

What's left is the youngest team in the conference, with 11 underclassmen (6 soph., 5 frosh) and two seniors: Devin Booker and Milton Jennings. Both of those guys will be asked to shoulder the load and hopefully, finally live up to the expectations they came with; for Booker (10.5 ppg and 7 rpg), at least in part living up to the legacy of his older brother Trevor; for Jennings (7 ppg and 5 rpg), justifying his status as the first McDonald's All-American to show up at Clemson since Sharone Wright in 1991. Jennings is a guy I had tabbed for a breakout season last year. He's got loads of potential and maybe the fact that he will be counted on for so much will inspire him to finally make good on it. Tiger fans better hope that he does, because no one else who's coming back averaged more than 4 points or 2 rebounds per game. 6'6" swingman K.J. McDaniel and shooting guard T.J. Sapp both showed flashes of promise. Physical point guards Rod Hall and Devin Coleman got a little run, but will have some (figuratively) big shoes to fill ; Andre Young averaged nearly 35 minutes per game.

Clemson brings in a big recruiting haul, including 6'7" ESPN Top 150 Forward Jaron Blossomgame. Blossomgame was expected to start right away but suffered a severe leg injury over the summer that looks likely to keep him out until a few weeks into the season at best. His athleticism will give the Tigers a reasonably formidable front court. Also joining the squad will be 6'10" Landry Nnoko who was recruited by the likes of Georgetown and Louisville, 6'8" 250 pound (!) forward Josh Smith ( apparently the going appellation for hefty post players in college these days), and point guard prospect Jordan Roper , who is expected to challenge for minutes right off the bat.

Brown Brownell's teams are always disciplined, strong defensively (2nd in the ACC in scoring Defense and steals) and good at taking care of the ball ( as a team, they committed the second fewest turnovers and led the league in turnover margin.) But, without some serious offensive punch finally coming from Jennings and Booker, they simply won't be able to score enough to stay out of the bottom third of the conference. Even with those guys stepping up, this looks like an average team at best.

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