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New Year, New Tigers?

Brad Brownell’s Clemson comes into ACC play with a solid record, but that’s not unusual. Getting out with one is.

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NCAA Basketball: Louisiana-Lafayette at Clemson
 Dec 22, 2017; Clemson, SC, USA; Louisiana Lafayette Ragin Cajuns forward Justin Miller (3) and Clemson Tigers forward David Skara (24) attempt to get the rebound during the first half at Littlejohn Colisuem.
Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

This is Brad Brownell’s eighth season at Clemson. Few would dispute the efficacy of his coaching – how hard his teams play, their commitment to defense, the difficulty of beating them at Littlejohn Coliseum. They win enough to be dangerous and respectable, but not enough to stand out in the ACC or nationally.

Since Brownell came from Wright State for the 2010-11 season, his Tigers are 57-66 in ACC play counting Saturday’s win over NC State. Four of his first seven Clemson squads finished with winning ACC records. Only once has one of Brownell’s units posted a losing overall mark – 13-18 in 2013.

On the other hand only once in his first seven seasons did Clemson reach the NCAAs, and that was in 2011, his first year with a squad primarily inherited from Oliver Purnell. There have been two NIT appearances over the intervening years, including last season, and at least one time (2014) when the Tigers were unfairly snubbed come NCAA selection time.

Clemson’s fate is not clearly tied to how well it does early. Brownell’s teams rarely run off great strings of victories or defeats in November and December. They’ve been bothered by quick early defeats and the occasional, scarcely explicable loss against a UMass or Gardner-Webb. Then they’ve proceeded to win more than they lost just three times in seven tries the rest of the way, mostly in ACC play.

This year’s Tigers acquitted themselves well during the nonconference schedule, winning at Ohio State in the Big 10/ACC Challenge and at Florida. They beat archrival South Carolina rather handily (64-48) at home.

Clemson’s only early loss came to Temple in the finals of the in-state Charleston Classic. The Owls are a top-100 club, rated higher by USA Today’s Jeff Sagarin than several ACC teams and Eastern powers UConn and Georgetown.

By defeating NC State, a weaker team, at Littlejohn, Clemson concluded the 2017 portion of this season’s schedule with a 12-1 record. That’s its best start to date under Brownell. This may mean nothing for predictive purposes – last season’s 11-2 was second-best in Brownell’s eight years but yielded a 30 percent win percentage the rest of the way.

Clemson Record in Early Schedule Under Brad Brownell
(Based on When Calendar Year Ends)
Season Record 12/31 Start Wins To
First ACC
Rest of Season
2018 12-1 4 NCS-W (12/30) NA
2017 11-2 2 @WF-W (12/31) 6-14
2016 7-6 3 @NC-L (12/30) 10-8
2015 8-4 1 NC-L (1/3) 8-11
2014 9-3 5 @BC-W (1/4) 14-10
2013 7-4 2 FS-L (1/5) 6-14
2012 7-6 2 FS-W (1/7) 9-9
2011 10-4 3 Mia-W (1/8) 12-8

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