If only. Those two little words should be the motto of Clemson basketball, year in and year out. If only Clemson could finish off games. If only Clemson had another consistent scorer. If only Clemson could find some easy points in transition so that each game they played wasn’t a 62-58 slugfest. The phrase “if only” was the story of the Clemson Tigers’ season again in 2013-14, as the orange and purple got a great season from junior forward K.J. McDaniels that for a while put him in consideration for ACC Player of the Year. But no one else stepped up, the Tigers misfired in some key games and the season ended with a loss to SMU in the NIT semifinals at Madison Square Garden. Despite completing the campaign 23-13 and 10-8 in the ACC, the Tigers again failed to be as good as they could have been.
For the season, Clemson lost nine games by six points or less, including the Tigers’ final six defeats of the year. Here is an evaluation of Clemson on both sides of the ball and overall.
OFFENSE: If it wasn’t for McDaniels, the Clemson offense would well have been the worst in the country. As it is, McDaniels averaged 17.1 PPG, scored 20 or more points 13 times and the Tigers averaged a mere 63.3 PPG, 324th in the nation. With McDaniels, who hit 46 percent of his shots, Clemson only shot 42.4 percent from the field. If you take McDaniels out of the equation, which will be the case next season since the forward is headed to the NBA, the overall shooting percentage drops to a mere 41.2 percent. Clemson had more turnovers (401) than assists (383). McDaniels was the only Tigers player to average in double figures, and when the Tigers needed key points late where McDaniels was guarded or out of the game, the offense rotted. The only reason this grade is acceptable at all is because of the great season McDaniels had. GRADE: C.
DEFENSE: Clemson is one of the better defensive teams in the country. But in a league with plenty of tough defenses, the Tigers needed more than a gritty defense to win. But give credit where it’s due; Clemson performed well defensively. The Tigers finished fifth in the country, allowing just 58.4 PPG. Clemson created 10.7 blocks-plus-steals per game which is a respectable number in the ACC. Clemson’s 5.9 blocks per game were good for 16th in the country. Clemson held opponents to 55 points or less in 14 different games this season. The defense sparked a signature win over then-No. 16 Duke, 72-59, at home on Jan. 11, and the Tigers only lost by a point (63-62) to Duke when the teams met in the ACC Tournament. But most often, the great defense had too much to do to push Clemson across the final line. GRADE: A-.
OVERALL: Looking at the grades above, it’s somewhat hard to believe that this year’s Clemson Tigers were a disappointment. But the Tigers in 2013-14 were a case of the sum not being equal to the parts. A top offensive player in McDaniels and a great defense should have been the keys to a successful season. Instead, Clemson underachieved, like usual, missed the NCAA Tournament, and disappointed. GRADE: D.
Twitter-Style, the 2013-14 Clemson Tigers in 140 (or less): “Clemson gonna Clemson. #GoodForAllTimesOfYear”