I think it is pretty safe to say that when we look back on the 2017-18 men’s basketball season a couple of years from now, we will all have even more appreciation for just how special it really was. Personally, I got to live out a childhood dream, doing play-by-play for a team that plays in the best college league there is. The thrills started in game one.
The season opener against Western Carolina gave us the blueprint for what was to come, as Clemson used a 22-2 run over the last seven minutes of the first half to build a 44-22 lead. Donte Grantham finished with 14 points and five rebounds. Elijah Thomas and Gabe DeVoe each had 11 points and Marcquise Reed added 10. Brad Brownell’s squad shot 50 percent from the floor and was 25-31 from the free-throw line. The opening win was definitely the trendsetter.
By November 29, Clemson was off to a 6-1 start and went on the road to play Ohio State in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. It was in this game that another trend emerged…the comeback.
Trailing by as many as 13 points in the first half and seven with just over 13 minutes left in the second half, the Tigers went on a run. Clemson outscored Ohio State by 21 points in the second half, shooting 17-27 from the field, 6-10 on three-point attempts and 9-11 from the free-throw line on its way to a 79-65 win. The road victory was a huge shot of confidence.
It carried to a December 16 neutral-site win (71-69) over Florida, as Clemson overcame a 12-point, second-half deficit to improve to 9-1. Three nights later, Brownell’s team crushed South Carolina 64-48 in Littlejohn Coliseum. Then on Dec. 30, the Tigers opened ACC play at home with a resounding victory over N.C. State. Clemson headed into 2018 with a 13-1 record.
Clemson opened the new year on the road at Boston College. Grantham put together one of the best performances ever by a Tiger, totaling 23 points, 14 rebounds and five assists in leading the team to a 74-70 win. Unfortunately, just 17 days later, his season came to a crashing end with a knee injury suffered against Notre Dame at home in a 67-58 win.
The Tigers went on to finish the regular season 22-8 overall and 11-7 in the ACC. The 11 conference wins were the most in program history and were enough to give Clemson the No. 4 seed and a double-bye in the ACC Tournament.
Clemson opened its ACC Tournament play with a 90-82 victory over Boston College, but would fall by six points the next day to the eventual ACC Tournament champion (Virginia). The loss was disappointing, but a berth in the NCAA Tournament was a foregone conclusion. On selection Sunday, the squad celebrated a No. 5 seeding in the Midwest Region and a matchup with New Mexico State in San Diego, Calif.
The Tigers played their best basketball of the season on the West Coast, cruising to a 79-68 win over New Mexico State. Then, Clemson smashed Auburn 84-53 to reach the Sweet 16. The guard tandem of DeVoe, Reed, and Shelton Mitchell was the buzz of town when the Tigers arrived in Omaha, but the No. 1 seed in the Midwest Region, Kansas, was up to the task and sent our Tigers home despite a heroic night from DeVoe with 31 points. It was the most points by a Tiger in his final game since Larry Nance scored 34 points against Temple in an NIT game in 1981.
Seasons can be easy to forget and get lost in the pages of one’s mind, but this season will keep getting better as time goes by. Well done Brad Brownell, players and staff…well done.