I traveled undercover, disguised as a civilian, deep into the depths of Dixie to bring you this interrogation...er, interview with everyone's favorite Clemson Tigers blog, SBN's own Shakin' the Southland. Enjoy, and make sure to go over and check out our half of the Q&A later.
1. Clemson's in the midst of a tough slump right now, with three consecutive losses, the last of which was to a pretty poor BC team. Do you think it's more likely that Oliver Purnell is able to right the ship and we'll see a hungry Clemson team desperate for a win, or that the Tigers come out flat and demoralized?
You will definitely see a more inspired squad than you saw against BC on Tuesday. OP was able to get more emotion out of the Tigers in the second half, and will definitely have the Tigers excited to play Maryland. A loss to the Terps puts Clemson at 3-5 in league play and in a tough spot heading down the stretch.
2. Speaking of that slump, how much has the injury of Demontez Stitt had to do with it? Would a healthy, effective Stitt make this an entirely different Clemson team?
The loss of Stitt is extremely detrimental to Clemson. Stitt is a huge offensive threat for the Tigers as he shoots fairly well and is the only Tiger so far who has proven he can make things happen off of the dribble. Anytime you lose your best ball handler your team will be effected, which is what we have seen without a healthy Stitt.
Stitt really started to help Booker out before getting injured at NCST from a point contribution standpoint. Now Clemson has to utilize Young in more of a ball handling role just when Stitt was getting more comfortable playing a larger role in the Clemson offense.3. Trevor Booker is unquestionably the best post player in the ACC, and easily one of the best players in the conference overall. There have only been two games where he's been relatively contained: South Carolina, where he got 7 and 7, and @ Duke, where he put up 10 and 5. Is there a key to stopping the man-beast that is Booker? On that same note, when Clemson's lost, it doesn't look the reason was that Booker didn't get his. Would Maryland be better off with a strategy of letting Booker get his points but trying to shut down others?
I would recommend crashing down on Booker. The Clemson offense basically runs through Booker, particularly without Stitt. Clemson has not proven that it can consistently shoot or create opportunities off the dribble in a half court set. With such poor shooting of the basketball and Booker really being the large contributor, if you can stop Booker you will stop Clemson, especially if CU's full court pressure does not generate turnovers and easy looks in transition.
4. This question is a favorite of mine: who's one player that Maryland fans probably don't know about that might cause problems for the Terps? This is the breakout player, under the radar, sleeper type of guy. It can be someone who's rapidly improved lately, or that has one extremely important skill, or that gets overlooked often, but they can make a team hurt.
Andre Young would fit this bill if there is anyone on this team. Young will be featured more with the injury to Stitt. Young has shown slivers of being a good shooter and will need to step up off the dribble. Thus, Young will be featured a lot more with the absence of Stitt.
On this subject, I think my favorite player on this team is Tanner Smith. Tanner is a scrappy player who gives 100% effort each and every game. You have to like this young man's work ethic and his heart and I wish Clemson had more players who played this hard all the time.
5. One type of team Maryland's been able to beat this year is a team with inexperienced or poor guard play. Likewise, they've struggled against teams with very good, quick guards and solid outside shooting. Which side of the spectrum does Clemson fall on in that regard?
Clemson's best guard Demontez Stitt hurt his ankle a few weeks ago against NCST and had to sit for the BC game earlier this week. This loss is critical for the Tigers, as others have not been able to fill Stitt's role as a healthy contributor. Clemson does not have anyone who has consistently shot the ball well from the perimeter lately.
6. Clemson has made leaps and bounds in recent years, and some say that they might've even eclipsed once-powerful Maryland as a program. Just how high do you think Oliver Purnell can carry this program?
OP's efforts are extremely dramatic. Clemson is light years better than it was under Shyatt. Purnell has done a great job bringing in quality talent and getting players to utilize this athleticism well in transition. However, if OP cannot get some shooters and cannot get his teams to play better fundamental basketball, I fear Clemson may be at its highest level. Any upgrades in perimeter shooting, free throw shooting, and fundamental basketball and you should see this team at least as an annual Sweet 16 squad.