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ACC Women's Preview #4 - Clemson

Scouting Report: Clemson had yet another successful year in 2002, though
it wasn't always very pretty. They barely squeaked into the NCAA
tournament (their seventh in a row), where they promptly lost. Of greater
concern for the 2003 team, the Tigers lost 20 ppg, 7 rpg and 5 apg when
Krystal Scott and Marci Glenney graduated, not to mention most of their three
point shooting. Furthermore, the only new addition from last year's squad
that had any real impact was junior college forward Leah Roper, and even that
was just at "role-player" level. Jim Davis has always been able to squeeze
results out of less-talented players and also is well-known for his ability
to develop players over time. But the upper class of his roster will
test even his abilities, with the prominent exception of genuine superstar
Chrissy Floyd. As amazing as she can be, she'll need help. This is
where Clemson's frosh come in; if they can contribute right away, then the
Tigers will take their customary role in the upper division of the ACC.
If not, then we might see some unprecedented slippage. Fortunately for the
Tigers, things seem to be coming together for this particular squad.

2002 Summary: 17-12, 9-7
ACC (NCAA 1st round)

Head Coach: Jim Davis

Who's Leaving:

  • Scott, Krystal/ G, 5-8 (10.4 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 3.8 apg, 31% 3FG)
  • Glenney, Marci/ G-F, 5-11 (9.7 ppg, 4 rpg, 1.7 apg, 1.3 spg, 46% 3FG,
    3rd Team All-ACC)
  • Crowe, Heather/ G-F, 5-11, Jr.
    Brunson, April/ G (1.5 mpg)

Who's Coming Back: (*=expected starter)

  • *Floyd, Chrissy/ G, 5-9, Sr. (18.2 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 1.8 spg, 31% 3FG,
    1st team All-ACC, All-ACC Defensive)
  • Andrew, Tia/ F, 6-2, Sr. (1 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 1.1 bpg)
  • Roper, Leah/ F, 5-11, Sr. (5.5 ppg, 5 rpg, 1.7 spg)
  • Vasilas, Tabitha/ G, 5-6, Sr. (1 ppg, 2.2 mpg)
  • *Slosser, Maggie/ F-C, 6-2, Jr. (6.4 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 50% FG)
  • *Queen, Kanetra/ G, 5-8, Jr. (1.5 ppg, 1.3 rpg, 1.8 apg)
  • Stokes, Lakeia/ G, 6-0, Jr. (5.8 ppg, 3.2 rpg)
  • *Aderhold, Julie/ F-G, 5-11, Jr. (6.5 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 33% 3FG)
  • Blackmon, Monica/ C, 6-4, So. (4.4 mpg)
  • Shafer, Lacey/ C, 6-5, So. (1.4 ppg, 1.7 rpg)
  • Sanders, Khaili/ F, 6-3, Fr. (Redshirt)

Who's New:

  • Chauvin, Lauren/ G, 5-10
  • Allen, Lauren/ F, 6-2
  • Talley, Julie/ G, 5-6
  • *White, Amanda/ C, 6-4

Strengths: Foul shooting, post play, athleticism

Concerns: Rebounding, youth in frontcourt, outside shooting

So what went wrong for the Tigers? Their biggest problem came in trying
to replace Erin Batth's defensive presence in the post. None of their
new players could prevent them from being one of the worst rebounding teams
in the ACC, as well as having the worst defensive field goal %. Clemson
relied far too much on their perimeter game, though this was understandable
since they had no one who could score inside on a consistent basis. Their
guards were also better known for their penetration rather than their
shooting, which made them an easy team to defend. What saved them from
mediocrity was taking care of the ball, solid overall team play, and the
brilliance of Floyd, who was named to the ACC 50th Anniversary team. Still,
if it wasn't for a victory over a surprising South Carolina squad, it's
unlikely that the Tigers would have appeared in the NCAA's at all. Clemson
could no longer rely on a bruising post game and intense defense. Their
post players were undersized and out of position.

Their November games showed both what they were capable of as well as their
weaknesses. After whipping an overmatched ECU club, they controlled a
decent Illinois squad by winning the rebounding battle. The Tigers then
turned around and lost to a mediocre UMASS team by losing the rebounding
struggle and shooting only 38%. They knocked off a sizzling South Carolina
team in their best performance of the year. The Tigers outshot the Gamecocks
and were even on the boards, but Clemson won the game by pounding it inside--
something they were able to do only on rare occasions.

If the USC win could be credited to the team as a whole, then the
embarrassing loss that followed to Furman was a team debacle. Other than
Floyd's 23 points, the rest of the Tigers combined for just 34 against
a bad Furman club. After that came an flop to one of Maryland's worst-ever
teams, where the Tigers let the Terps shoot 56%. The Tigers righted
themselves with six straight wins, including a much-needed road win against
Penn State and big-time scorer Kelly Mazzante. She had 31 against the
Tigers, but the rest of her team had only 38 as Clemson had a more
balanced attack. Clemson couldn't stop Virginia Tech but beat a talented
young Virginia squad on the road, with Floyd dropping 28 on the Hoos.

Clemson was 10-4 at that point, having beaten two ranked teams in USC
and Penn State. They weren't ready for a top-10 Duke team as the Devils
outrebounded them by 24 and won in a blowout despite Clemson shooting 54%!
Then came an agonizing loss to UNC in Littlejohn. The Tigers let the Heels
shoot 50% from three, letting a superb offensive performance by the
starters go to waste. After that came the nadir of the season: a double-
digit loss to league bottom-feeder Wake Forest. The normally cold-shooting
Deacons got well against Clemson's "defense", shooting 54%.

With their season suddenly in jeopardy, the Tigers got their act
together against Maryland and upset NC State, out-toughing their vaunted
frontcourt. Just when it looked like the Tigers were rounding into form,
they were stung by a road loss to Georgia Tech where they were outboarded
by 22. They improved their record to 14-8 by upsetting Virginia again.
That season sweep was another big factor in getting into the NCAA's. Once
again, they couldn't hang with Duke or UNC though they made both games
very difficult. The Tigers finally seemed to come together down the
stretch, taking care of business against Wake, Tech and getting a sweep
of a downtrodden but still tough NC State team. Their tourney hopes
seemed in jeopardy when the Wolfpack upset them in the first round of the
ACC Tournament, but they snuck in, only to lose to a very good Arkansas
team in the first round.

Clemson lost the rebounding battle 16 times in 2002, and dropped 11 of
those games. They allowed their opponents to shoot over 49% five times,
and lost each time. Their highest-scoring post player averaged 6.4 ppg
and their best rebounder was only at 5.2 rpg (15th in the ACC). The
Tigers ranked in the bottom two in the ACC in FG%, FG% defense, assists,
and rebounding margin and were only in the top two in scoring defense,
free throw percentage, and turnover margin. The Tigers used a deliberate
pace to cut down on turnovers but didn't really have the personnel for
the traditional Clemson grind-it-out attack. What Jim Davis has to
hope for in 2003 is that his new players can not only replace the 2002
seniors, but that they can step up and do things that the 2002 team couldn't.

The Tigers lost starting point Scott and starting wing Glenney, who made
up 2/3 of Clemson's big three. Scott did the dirty work on defense
and was sixth in the ACC in assists. Never a great shooter, she did
most of her damage off the dribble. Scott was the model of the solid but
unspectacular grinder, someone who wasn't a great talent but who helped
the team win. Former UConn transfer Glenney was expected to do great
things at Clemson, but her results were mixed. She did prove to be an ace
three point shooter, even if she only took 60 shots. Glenney could do a
little bit of everything out there and was also an excellent foul shooter.
The Tigers will have a hard time replacing Scott's leadership and Glenney's
versatility.

Luckily, Floyd returns to the lineup for her senior year, and the Tigers
will rely on her more than ever. This silky-smooth wing is devastating
off the dribble but has also developed a decent (but not great) three
point stroke. Floyd is also the team's best defender, a great foul shooter
and one of the league's leaders in steals. She must improve her passing
in order to deal with the junk defenses she is likely to face this year.
At point, there will likely be a battle between junior Kanetra Queen
and incoming from Julie Talley. Queen was not much of a threat to score
last year, but her 51 assists as Scott's backup were the second highest
total on the team. Talley is a top 50 player who made all sorts of all-star
teams and is the biggest get for Jim Davis in a while. Currently, Queen
has nailed down the starting job, but don't be suprised if Talley
surpasses her by midseason, especially if she can hit some threes.

At wing, Julie Aderhold will likely hold her starting spot. She is
a decent shooter and adequate rebounder who will have to step up her
production right away to replace Glenney. Quick slasher/shooter Lakeia
Stokes will also be looking to improve on her numbers, while reputed
frosh sharpshooter Lauren Chauvin will also likely see some time at 2 and 3.
Davis is looking for Stokes to provide some consistent offensive production
after an occasionally explosive 2002. Deeper on Clemson's bench is wing
Tabitha Vasilas, who is unlikely to get significant playing time.

At power forward is the undersized but tough-as-nails Maggie Slosser. She's
only 6-2 and is not especially mobile, but she pounds away underneath
in the Clemson tradition. While a hard worker, she's simply not as tall
or talented as many of the other ACC post players, a fact that hurt the
Tigers last year. JuCos Tia Andrew and Leah Roper were clearly not the
answer last year, though Roper did average 5 rpg. Neither was an effective
scorer. Lacey Shafer and Monica Blackmon both have good size, but neither
had much luck on the court. This means that there will be plenty of
opportunities for the new crop of post players, and Davis is hoping that
one of them will stick. One of them is a redshirt frosh, 6-3 Khaili
Sanders. She had a solid career in Atlanta as a prepster. Davis expects
her to be able to score right away and block some shots. 6-2 Lauren
Allen comes in with modest acclaim, but 6-4 Amanda White made a few
national post-season all-star teams. Davis is crazy about her and describes
White as a widebody will provide a true low post presence at both ends of
the floor.

There are definitely a lot of ifs surrounding the Tigers this year. Floyd
is obviously a superstar level talent, but there's no one else on the
team that's even near that level. That would be OK if there was a lot
of experience or production at even a modest level, but there isn't. There
are a couple of role players in Aderhold & Slosser who are known quantities,
a couple of very intriguing frosh in Talley & White, and a lot of question
marks filling up Davis' roster. Players like Roper, Stokes, Queen, Sanders,
and Andrew have to have some kind of an impact or it will be a very
long year in Clemson. With the majority of the ACC's top players returning
this year, this is no time for a program to be caught rebuilding. Having
Floyd around will help immensely, but the Tigers need improved passing,
better rebounding and greater all-around toughness. The Tigers of old
used to batter their opponents with their physical style and disrupt
their offenses, something that this group hasn't shown the ability to do.
They also lack a go-to three point shooter who could stretch out defenses
when other teams packed it in on their post players.

What the Tigers do have is Jim Davis, who has made a career of getting
his players to buy into his system and overachieve. Even his ability has
its limits, as witnessed by last year's record. The key to Clemson's
season rests solely on how much the veterans have improved and how quickly
Davis can bring the frosh along. Davis is a master of player development
and seems to now have the kind of players who fit the system he likes best:
rough & tumble yet cerebral basketball. The presence of Floyd and the
optimism about a revived post position lead me to pick them sixth, though
they could move up higher than that.

Strength of Schedule: 1.7 (Fifth in the ACC.)

Marquee Matchups: @South Carolina, Penn State

Mid-Majors: Auburn, Oakland/Mississippi, Western Kentucky, Furman

Tune-Ups: Grambling, Winthrop, High Point, Marshall, @Miami (OH)

Predicted finish: Sixth