The Clemson Tigers bring back two of their three top scorers from last season, adding a top transfer that they hope can finally bring them success in the ACC.
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PJ Hall and Chase Hunter lose their fellow big-three member in Hunter Tyson, who Brad Brownell immediately replaced with Joe Girard III. Not to go unmentioned, Brownell also boosted his squad by adding Jack Clark and Jake Heidbreder to the starting lineup.
Clemson spent all of last season on the bubble, ultimately missing the field and losing in the first round of the NIT. This season, the Tigers have a totally different outlook on the year, as they have arguably some of the best returning talent in the ACC.
The Tigers are fighting not for the tournament, but for a high seed. They have a real ability to compete with the blue bloods of the conference. The addition of Girard propelled them into the top-5 in the conference conversation, but they can compete for the top spot when March comes along.
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Head coach: Brad Brownell (23rd season, 14th at Clemson)
2022-23 record: 23-11 (14-6)
2023 postseason finish: Lost to Morehead State, 68-64, in first round of NIT
Notable departures: Hunter Tyson (Graduated), Brevin Galloway (Graduated), Ben Middlebrooks (Transferred to NC State)
Notable non-conference games: at Alabama (Nov. 28), vs. South Carolina (Dec. 6), vs. TCU (Dec. 9), at Memphis (Dec. 16)
PG: Joe Girard III (6-1, 190, Gr.-Sr.)
2022-23 stats: 16.4 PPG, 3.0 APG, 2.8 RPG, 40.3 FG%, 38.1 3P% (Syracuse)
SG: Chase Hunter (6-3, 204, Gr.)
2022-23 stats: 13.8 PPG, 4.5 APG, 3.0 RPG
SF: Jake Heidbreder (6-5, 180, Jr.)
2022-23 stats: 15.1 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 1.7 APG, 48.8 FG% (Air Force)
PF: Jack Clark (6-8, 200, Gr.-Sr.)
2022-23 stats: 9.0 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 1.5 APG (NC State)
C: PJ Hall (6-10, 240, Sr.)
2022-23 stats: 15.3 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 1.0 APG
6: Alex Hemenway (6-3, 195, Gr.-Sr.)
2021-22 stats: 6.9 PPG, 1.8 RPG, 1.1 APG
7: Ian Schieffelin (6-7, 2225, Jr.)
2022-23 stats: 5.5 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 1.9 APG, 51.1 FG%
8: Asa Thomas (6-7, 185, Fr.)
247Sports Composite No. 215 rated recruit
9: Bas Leyte (6-9, 250 So.)
2022-23 stats: 7.6 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 1.1 APG (UNC Greensboro)
10: RJ Godfrey (6-7, 225, So.)
2022-23 stats: 3.2 PPG, 2.1 RPG, 0.3 APG, 59.7 FG%, 9.4 MPG
11: Josh Beadle (6-8, 220, So.)
2022-23 stats: 2.3 PPG, 1.0 RPG, 0.8 APG, 12.8 MPG
Clemson Tigers MVP: Chase Hunter
Chase Hunter gets the nod over Joe Girard III and PJ Hall as Clemson’s MVP due to his experience. Hunter is entering is fifth year at Clemson, which is almost unheard of in the era of college basketball with one-and-dones and the transfer portal. He knows the system like the back of his hand, and has steadily improved each year he’s been there.
Hunter was the Tigers’ third leading scorer last season behind PJ Hall and Hunter Tyson, but he still led the backcourt in points and distributed the ball better than anyone on the team. He is the catalyst for Clemson’s offense and might not be the best player, but he is undoubtedly the most important.
The only problem Hunter faced last season was his inability to step up in big games. Against ranked conference opponents, he averaged just 5.8 points per game. For Clemson to have success this season, he has to be the guy in big games. If not, it will be another missed NCAA Tournament in Clemson.
Clemson Tigers make-or-break player: Joe Girard III
Joe Girard III could have easily fit into the spot above, but he seems like a better fit as the make-or-break player. Coming from Syracuse, Girard’s arrival lifted Clemson’s expectations exponentially. Whether or not he can bring them to the promise land is still yet to be seen.
Girard’s role will be a little different this year compared to at Syracuse. He will not necessarily be the primary ball handler, and he will be asked to carry more of the offensive burden. The 2,000 point scorer in high school is no stranger to offense, but in a new system for just one year might be a bit of a challenge.
Clemson’s offense runs through Chase Hunter, but will rely on Joe Girard. If he scores, they win. Simple. Make or break. Clemson is projected on that cusp of landing a double-bye in the ACC Tournament, and if Joe Girard lives up to his expectations, they will absolutely find themselves with one.
Key analytic: Assist to Turnover Ratio
Clemson struggled with assisting the basketball last season. There’s no nice way to put it. The Tigers only averaged 14 assists per game last season, which is pretty average, compared to 11 turnovers per game, which is also average.
But that’s the thing. Clemson and Brad Brownell are tired of being average. Whether or not they turn the ball over less or assist more: something needs to change from last season if Clemson wants off the bubble. With Chase Hunter leading the charge, Clemson can easily improve their 1.2 mark from last season, but it is critical for their success.
Clemson Tigers 2023-24 projections
Projected conference finish: 4th in the ACC
Projected postseason ceiling: NCAA Tournament – Sweet 16 Exit