Clemson Men’s Basketball: Exhibition opens Tigers 2023-2024 slate

Feb 4, 2023; Clemson, South Carolina, USA; Clemson junior guard Chase Hunter (1) scores late in the game with Miami during the second half at Littlejohn Coliseum in Clemson, S.C. Saturday, Feb. 4, 2023. Mandatory Credit: Ken Ruinard-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 4, 2023; Clemson, South Carolina, USA; Clemson junior guard Chase Hunter (1) scores late in the game with Miami during the second half at Littlejohn Coliseum in Clemson, S.C. Saturday, Feb. 4, 2023. Mandatory Credit: Ken Ruinard-USA TODAY Sports /

Clemson Men’s Basketball coach Brad Brownell’s been around the upstate long enough to know where his program sits in the pecking order on campus.

Despite recent struggles, for better or worse, football is and always will be king.  There’s no doubt about that.

Then there’s the promise of the storied Clemson baseball program that had fallen on hard times near the end of the Monte Lee era, but showed a resurgence in year one under Erik Bakich. Fewer fans and less fanfare, but when push comes to shove many in Clemson would prefer a cold, windy day at DKS over a cozy evening at Littlejohn.

It’s been an uphill battle for Brownell since his arrival in 2010, some of it of his own doing, some of it luck, some of it timing and some, well, is just basketball at Clemson.

The last several seasons have felt make or break for Brownell, fish or cut bait or whatever metaphor you favor.  Brownell’s been hanging on by a thread, the skin of his teeth, a whisker, a hair.  You get the idea.

Come to find out, it wasn’t really make (the NCAA Tournament) or break after all.

In general, the Tigers recent seasons have been marked by up and down pre-conference schedules, despite said schedule being regarded as weak.

When conference play starts the Tigers win some they were expected to lose and lose some they were expected to win, ending up barely in or barely out of the NCAA Tournament most seasons, living and dying by the whims of a committee that doesn’t think much of them and the number of upsets in conference tournaments.

Last season’s 23-11 season was good by Clemson and Brownell standards.  It wasn’t good enough for the selection committee and many fans.

Will this season be any different? I’m dubious but hopeful.  I’ve been around long enough to know how this movie typically ends.

The answer to that question begins with an exhibition game Wednesday evening in Littlejohn against Newberry College, before the Tigers kick off the season on Monday, November 6th against the Winthrop Eagles at home.

Newberry is a member of the South Atlantic Conference and has already played an exhibition against The Citadel in Charleston, a 91-74 loss.

Despite the loss of Hunter Tyson to the Denver Nuggets, the Tigers return a solid core, with a mix of veteran starters (P.J. Hall, Chase Hunter), solid role players (Alex Hemenway, Ian Schieffelin, R.J. Godfrey), young talent (Chauncey Wiggins, Josh Beadle, Dillon Hunter) and intriguing transfers (Joe Girard (Syracuse) and Jack Clark (N.C. State).

On paper the Tigers look like a team that could reach the tournament.

"This looks to be one of the better rosters Clemson has had in the recent past — there’s shooting, a big presence inside, versatility and athleticism."

The schedule, including the non-conference portion, is challenging.

"The Tigers non-conference schedule was previously released and is challenging, including Alabama, South Carolina, TCU and Memphis, among others."

Being a Clemson basketball fan is a roller coaster of emotions

The ups and downs of being a Clemson basketball fan are amazing. Losing to a dreadful South Carolina team, getting blown out by even worse Loyola-Chicago, beating Duke and starting 10-1 in the ACC and then losing to a 4 win Louisville team, a loss that likely cost the Tigers a bid to the NCAA Tournament.

And that’s just last season.

This is the year.  Yep, I said it.  This is THE year.  No, not THAT year.  This is the year I manage my emotions and expectations and ride the roller coaster the way it’s supposed to be ridden.

Don’t take it too seriously, just enjoy the ride.  There will be ups and downs, no doubt about that.  The highs will be exhilarating, anticipating what’s coming next, checking the schedule for the next game because I can’t wait.

Then my stomach will drop with the lows that will eventually come and I’ll wonder how I can make it through, only to be thrilled again by another high.  Don’t get to high, don’t get too low.

That’s what I tell myself now, but somehow, way back in the back of my mind I’m still wondering if this is the season the ride lasts until late March in some far flung location, like the TD Garden in Boston or the American Airlines Center in Dallas.

Some people are scared of roller coasters, but not me. I may not be first in line, but I can see the coaster and hear it warming up and imagine the ups and downs that are about to come my way.

I know when I get on the coaster it’s not a linear ride.  I can see the track in front of me.  I see the twists and turns, sections that go straight up and sections that go straight down, but I also know the coaster inevitably ends up where it started.

Yet that doesn’t stop me from hopping on for another wild ride.

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