CLEMSON – No one appears to be enjoying this Clemson basketball season. Not by the look of the empty seats last night, not by the look of the worn countenance of Brad Brownell in the post-game press room. Brownell said after last night’s 68-61 loss to Boston College that this is the toughest season “without question” of his 10-year career.
Brownell has never had a losing season. Clemson hasn’t had one since 2003-04. But unless the Tigers can reel off four straight wins, which is highly unlikely, Clemson will have a losing season.
Even though Clemson has lost five in a row and eight of nine, I don’t think Brownell has lost this team; it competes, it’s just simply not a very good team.
“We have holes,” Brownell said.
And that Clemson has holes should surprise no one after losing Jerai Grant, Demontez Stitt, Andre Young, Tanner Smith and several transfers in back-to-back offseasons. The staff knew this year would be tough, and knows next year will be difficult, too. Still, Clemson has still been competitive in many games. The team hasn’t quit but is Clemson in in jeopardy of losing some of its ticket buyers?
Not only was the on-court showing lacking last night – aside from the senior night performances by seniors Devin Booker and Milton Jennings – but the crowd volume and energy level was among the worst I have witnessed in 4.5 seasons on the beat. Yes, the weather was terrible. Yes, Boston College is awful. But, still, it was senior night. (And Clemson president Jim Barker was still able to make despite a quintuple bypass surgery in January.)
I’d estimate there were 4,000 people in attendance and perhaps 2,000 folks stuck around for the senior-night ceremonies. Disheartening for Brownell and the seniors, I’m sure. I suspect there were less than 1,000 students in attendance.
I’ve had some readers/Twitter followers say it’s tough for them to watch Clemson’s slow-down style. That’s why they are not attending. I don’t know if that’s a vocal minority, or not.
Wrote reader Randy Capps “Bad team + boring style = low attendance”
Sub .500 teams often have attendance problems, that’s not surprising. College sports, and particularly basketball, has an attendance problem, in part due to trends beyond their control like HD TV. Winning solves a lot of ills. But I believe slow-down styles, in any sport, can exacerbate the issue
For example, while college football attendance is down slightly across the board (3 percent), some teams with up-tempo offenses, like Clemson, enjoyed attendance increases (2 percent last season).
Brad Brownell can coach. What he did with the 2010-11 team, a team that graduated Trevor Booker, KC Rivers and Terrence Oglesby, was remarkable. Brownell is a solid tactician, a good developer of players, and I think his handling of Milton Jennings was admirable.
My modest proposal is this: pick up the pace … at least at times.
I’m not sure all-the-time, full-court pressure is the answer. Purnell didn’t spend enough time on half-court offense and it haunted him in the NCAA Tourney. But as I wrote last week I think underdog programs like Clemson might be best served by incorporating some up-tempo elements.
Clemson has to find an edge somewhere in addition to player development
When Brownell went to full-court pressure under two minutes last night Clemson produced several steals, the crowed volume picked up. Could this small sample be a road map?
Brownell’s history suggests he does not subscribe to an up-tempo system. Many believe it’s not effective in the NCAA Tournament. And Brownell has made four NCAA appearances, at three different schools, using his system. And even if he wanted to increase tempo, he probably couldn’t with this team due to lacking numbers and no veteran guards.
I know Brownell would like to pressure more ball-handlers but feels limited in that capacity, too.
“With our limited numbers, we can’t change much how we do things,” Brownell said. “We don’t have a lot of depth, so we can’t press for 30 minutes. We just have to keep playing and it almost seems like there comes a point where we get in a little bit of a rut.”
But the numbers, and experience, at guard and small forward should be better next year. If Brownell elects to, he could elect to pick up the tempo. I imagine Jaron Blossomgame and K.J. McDaniels could create havoc in a full-court game.
And Clemson might have to go smaller and pick up the tempo because the only players on the roster or in the recruiting class to date capable of playing the 4 or 5 are Josh Smith, Landry Nnoko and Bernard Sullivan. Yeah, the Clemson frontcourt is in trouble. Clemson will have to play more small ball.
But picking up the tempo could be a fix and it might do something else: it might entertain.