Georgia-Clemson Secret Scrimmage

Clemson at Georgia: Secret Scrimmage Preview

Clemson visits Georgia in a highly anticipated regional clash in front of a sold-out crowd at Stegeman Coliseum… Wait… no.

Clemson comes to Stegeman Coliseum to scrimmage with Georgia in an event that has unknown time periods, rules, stoppages and all sorts of other conditions.  The fun part is that only 60 people will see this take place and given that Georgia is going to have a charity exhibition game with the program Head Coach Mark Fox deemed #1 in the country two days later, it is not going to be a surprise if this is treated as an opportunity to experiment A LOT.  Secret scrimmages are there to help coaches find out where their teams are in the middle of Fall Practice in an environment that is private.  Evaluating a team that plays only against itself can be challenging, which makes the first few games of the regular season a complete mystery to a coaching staff.  Georgia is getting a middle-of-the-road, but closer to the caboose ACC opponent in Clemson.

Brownell actually bucked his radically slow pace trend last season and played a much faster tempo compared to past seasons, but being merely slower than the average pace as opposed to being in the slowest quintile is not a radical shift.  Avry Holmes, Sidy Djitte and Jaron Blossomgame graduated and those are tough losses for this program.  Clemson was very potent from three point range last season and presented matchup problems for opponents.  However, Clemson is quite different now.

Last season, Clemson did not run anything that was exotic and they have been rather vanilla stylistically for the entirety of the Brad Brownell era.  Well, Clemson wants to change that completely.  Brad Brownell is channeling his inner Oliver Purnell this season, the question is whether he is actually going to commit to it.  If you do not press all the time, it should not be surprising if defensive efforts and the pace of play goes through fits-and-stops.  Mike Anderson would give up on the press in many road games altogether and it helped explain why Arkansas was so strong at home, but yet play so differently on the road.  Bob Huggins committed completely to the press and his team is known for winning at home and on the road with a so-called “lesser talent level” than his opposition in the Big XII.

Brad Brownell is making a radical transition.  Viewers can find out if he teach the style properly in such a short time frame and whether he sticks to it.

Old Brad Brownell wants his team to play at a slow pace and commits to man-to-man half court defense to a fault.

New Brad Brownell says f*** that.

“To start, the ramped-up initiative will feature Clemson pulling out a fullcourt press this season to inflict more mayhem up front. With more depth than he has had in the past, particularly with his freshman class, Brownell plans to rotate different players in and out more frequently to wear down opposing teams. 

Brownell is also experimenting with different zone looks to compete with some of the ACC’s best, and on the offensive end he is trying to put the rest of the puzzle pieces together for when Shelton Mitchell is limited in his minutes. Mitchell, a redshirt junior guard, still has ongoing issues with his knee. Brownell expects 6-8 Donte Grantham to play some backup point guard, this after Grantham tested the NBA waters last spring and received rave reviews for his versatility.”

Clemson has Point Guard depth issues, but it is not a case of having Point Guard competition like the one in Athens.  No, they literally have one Point Guard left on the roster, Shelton Mitchell.  Donte Grantham who can be described as soft is going to be the Point Forward.  Maybe this is why Clemson is practicing a press defense, they need to be prepared for it themselves.  Kevin Keatts’ North Carolina State Wolfpack may eat their lunch.

The new iteration of Clemson Basketball would normally be a good warm-up for a team about to face Michigan State.  This iteration is described as not very physical, banged up and experimenting.  Clemson seems like they may be a good warm-up for a team about to face Georgia Tech as Brownell may have found inspiration from Josh Pastner’s “everything but the kitchen sink” approach that worked rather well for him last season.   

Clemson’s production on the perimeter and glass without Blossomgame, Holmes and Djitte will be challenged.  Donte Grantham took a major step backwards last season and he is going to be reinvented in his Senior season.

Clemson is trying something completely new and Brad Brownell and his staff deserve credit for doing this, but going from competing with Tony Bennett in terms of grind-it-out pace and half-court emphasis to mirroring your predecessor is a bit desperate.  Mark Fox has actually pressed in some games (moments of self-preservation… the 3/4 court trap works very well), but Brownell has not even done that and he has no basis to know if it would work at all.

This is a big adjustment for Brownell and it may be a shock to the system for Mark Fox’s squad, but maybe they need this.  It is also possible that Brownell is just making conjecture and there is no radical change.  Taken at face value, Brownell is making the adjustments not out of a position of strength, but rather out of a position of weakness.  He needs helter-skelter due to his Point Guard depth, frontcourt that has questionable depth and chemistry and a lack of physicality.

There is talk that Mark Fox is making similar adjustments, but Fox is trying to figure out who he can trust in his backcourt and how he can shuffle around a very deep and versatile frontcourt.  Fox pressing, zoning and changing the offense would be out of a position of strength because he recruited versatile student-athletes and it is time for him to make the necessary adjustments.  Fox and Brownell could be radically experimenting for completely different reasons and the results of this secret scrimmage may matter less than what the coaches actually did with the teams.

Unfortunately, rumors and innuendo coming out of Stegeman Coliseum tomorrow and Saturday about how the scrimmage went down will not touch upon what the coaches did, but rather who played well and even a scoring margin.  In other words, it is likely that what is leaked out is going to be a lot of nothing.  It’s not about the individual players during this time of the season, it is about how the coach adjusts to the talent that he has.  How well does Mark Fox know his team and what makes them click on both ends of the floor?  The answers are not going to be readily available… yet.