Brad Brownell’s tenure at Clemson has been underwhelming, but to be fair he’s mostly been playing with the previous administration’s players. For Tigers fans searching for hope, he hasn't exactly loaded with young stars, failing to land a single 4* or 5* recruit. The rest of the ACC has 68 players who were consensus top 100 recruits.
Gone from last year are the studly Devin Booker and the enigmatic Milton Jennings, the two players who anchored Clemson’s main strength – interior defense. Their offense was, well, offensive. Clemson's offense was ranked No. 225 in the nation (offensive efficiency). Among major conference teams, only three had a worse rated attack.
So it was no surprise when preseason predictions started rolling out and Clemson was an afterthought. Of CBS's 6-man panel, five had them picked Clemson 14th of 15 in the ACC, and one had them 13th.
The Tigers began the year against a couple of cupcakes, and crushed them both by 20+. Then the competition ramped up and they beat South Carolina and Temple by 14 each, and then they curb stomped Davidson by 31. Now they sit at 5-0 for the first time since 2008-09.
Their offense is currently rated No. 79 in efficiency, which isn't great by any means, but it's a long way from last year's No. 225. Where they've really stood out though is on the defensive end. Getting high level recruits to Clemson isn't going to be easy, so Brownell has recruited kids who can defend. They're executing extremely well, and some of the defensive numbers are gaudy. Their eFG% allowed is just 37.2%, which is 2nd best in the nation behind Iowa. And they've blocked 21% of opponent 2-pt attempts.
The early star on both ends of the floor has been KJ McDaniels, who had 19 blocks over a 3-game span. He's also scored at least 20 in four of their five games, and is making 61% of his 2s, 39% of his 3s, and 90% of his free throws.
The Tigers are currently playing in the Charleston Classic, where they will face UMass in Sunday's championship. Entering the year, no one in their right mind would have had Clemson-UMass circled on the calendar, but here we are. The Minutemen are 5-0 as well, and have beaten five good teams. If Clemson wins this game, they'll likely be ranked. Not bad for a team which entered the season as an afterthought.