Tigers open season against G-W with big shoes to fill

Clemson has reached the NCAA Tournament in four straight seasons — the longest such streak in school history — and has reached the 20-win mark in five straight campaigns.

Expectations are down a bit for this season, however, with leading scorer Demontez Stitt and top rebounder Jerai Grant both moving on. The Tigers were picked for a seventh-place finish in the Atlantic Coast Conference and will be relying heavily on Andre Young and Devin Booker as returning starters.

Clemson coach Brad Brownell set a school record for wins by a first-year coach last season but will now be judged by how he both wins and recruits in the ACC. The Tigers will open their season by hosting the Big South’s Gardner Webb. The Runnin’ Bulldogs have never reached the NCAA Tournament and have a steep climb ahead of them this season.

The Runnin’ Bulldogs were picked to finish 10th out of 11 teams in the Big South preseason coaches poll despite returning four starters. Leading scorer Jonathan Moore is the lone starter gone from last season. Transfers Jason Dawson and Tashan Newsome will see extended minutes. Dawson was the star of the team’s August trip to the Bahamas, averaging 18 points and 6.5 assists in two games.

After bowing out in the first round in three consecutive seasons, the Tigers finally won an NCAA Tournament game last spring but ended up losing in the second round. Young is the leading returning scorer at 11.1 points per game and Booker was second to Grant in rebounding in 2010-11. Clemson won’t leave the state of South Carolina for its first five games.

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