Commentary: Another Chapel Hill Loss a Glimpse into the Future?

by - Correspondent -

Tuesday night's Clemson 69-53 loss at North Carolina wasn't anything unusual. Considering it was the Tigers' 50th loss in Chapel Hill - without a victory - it certainly wasn't unexpected.

What it may have been, oddly enough, is a small window into the future of Clemson basketball.

While the results obviously fell short, the effort remained strong. That in itself is no surprise. Oliver Purnell's team has continued to play hard all year despite struggling through the ACC regular season.

But beyond the effort, if one looks closely enough, lies the real story.


Clemson trailed by eight points at the half. It very easily could have led by that margin. Perhaps more. The turnovers which have plagued the Tigers all season were well in evidence again, but so were missed opportunities.

When Clemson held onto the ball it created good shot opportunities, both from the perimeter and inside. The Tigers were able to create mismatches in the paint and get to the foul line.

All of which are things good teams do to win games.

The only problem is this Clemson team can't finish. The open shots don't fall. The mismatches don't pay off.

The free throws, well, everyone knows about free throw shooting in Tiger Town.

Add to all that the turnover factor - and the occasional outstanding performance by an opponent (see Rashad McCants and his school record-tying eight 3-pointers) - and you have a 10-17 team doomed to its fourth consecutive ACC Tournament play-in game.

But one gets the idea that as Purnell continues to build this program he will bring in players who can finish.

His early recruiting exploits lead one to believe he'll have guys who can hit jump shots, find players who can capitalize on a mismatch; sign young men who can hit free throws and take care of the basketball.

What all that means at the moment, to the current Tigers, is little to nothing.

To their credit they have kept at it consistently, save for perhaps the loss to N.C. State in Raleigh. They try desperately to hold onto the ball. They keep taking the open jumpers.

They keep playing defense.

But this Clemson team is a collection of role players, most of whom might have a comfort zone coming off the bench for another team in another situation. Collectively their talents just don't match up to ACC standards.

When it does - and that day is just around the corner - watch for exciting things to happen with the Tiger basketball program.

And maybe, just maybe, one of those things will be a first-ever win in Chapel Hill.

Say, in about 2006?

Dan Scott covers Clemson University for the Seneca Daily Journal/Clemson Messenger. He also hosts SportsTalk from 9 a.m.-Noon, Monday-Friday, on WCCP-Fm, 104.9. Click here for Dan Scott's SportsTalk discussion board.

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