Saturday, June 20, 2009

Clemson Grabs Noel Johnson

As I mentioned briefly in this post earlier today, Clemson has capitalized off of the USC implosion by grabbing the top Trojan recruit still on the market: Noel Johnson. This is a nice recovery by Oliver Purnell after he was surprised by the abrupt departure of Terrence Oglesby to Europe.

Now, Johnson isn't a "replacement" for Oglesby any more than a baseball team can replace a pitcher by trading for an outfielder. Johnson has more natural skill than Oglesby, and is the better NBA prospect (Oglesby will almost definitely spend his entire pro career in Europe), but he is more of a conventional swing forward. Oglesby brought a unique skill to Clemson in that he was an old school shooter, with a range that seemed to extend to mid court. The way he spread the floor really opened things up for everybody else, and his absence is going to mean many more double teams for star big man Trevor Booker. That all said, Johnson is a better all-around player and talent than Oglesby, and he will certainly be a big part of their plans for next season. And hopes are high at Clemson, where they will be a contender in a wide open ACC.

I've talked about the ACC quite a bit: my 2009-10 preview from two months ago is here, and my most recent analysis of the conference was just five days ago and is here. At this point, it's hard to choose between North Carolina, Duke, Maryland and Clemson, and all four have an excellent shot to win. North Carolina probably has the most overall talent, but they're going to be very young and inexperienced, and they're likely going to have the post-Championship hangover. Duke is the next most talented team, but they're also fairly young, and still will likely have the same lack of size they've had the last few years (I know that Duke fans insist that they've finally got somebody in Mason Plumlee, but I'll believe it when I see it). Clemson and Maryland are both experienced squads compared to Duke and UNC. Maryland has the best single player in Grievis Vasquez, but Clemson has more all around depth with the signing of Noel Johnson. I'd also throw in Georgia Tech as a dark horse because of all of the great young talent, but right now I would put my money on Duke, UNC, Maryland and Clemson to be the four top teams in the ACC, in some order.


Devon said...

Let me say first that I agree with your assessment of what the top 4 teams will be in the ACC next year, and that it is pretty much a toss up at this point as to who will emerge from that group to be the top team.

However, I'm pretty confused about your comment that Duke will be a young team next year. They will return 5 players that started a significant number of games last year. Those players will include 2 seniors, 2 juniors and 1 sophomore. That sounds reasonably experienced to me.

Jeff said...

That has to do with the fact that they are going to rely heavily on Elliot Williams, who really only established himself late in his freshman season, as well as some big man (be it one of the Plumlees or somebody else) who has almost no experience, and Kyle Singler, who is only a junior.

Duke is not going to be led by a senior, or even have a senior among their top two or three players. This is as opposed to Maryland and Clemson, who can fall back on Vasquez and Booker, respectively, when times get tough.

Duke's older players (Scheyer, Zoubek, Thomas, etc) just aren't good enough to lead the team to an ACC title. They're only going as far as their freshmen and sophomores take them.

Devon said...

Hmmm. Interesting prediction, but I don't agree. Duke will go as far as Singler, Scheyer, and Nolan Smith can take them. Elliot Williams has the potential to be a good shooting guard, but Duke's success will rise or fall (yet again) on how good their point guard play is.

I think people have misunderstood Duke's improvement at the end of last year. The key was not the insertion of Elliot Williams into the lineup, it was the movement of Scheyer to the point. He pretty much eliminated turnovers from the point guard position, and was able to effectively run the offense. Putting Williams in the lineup is what allowed the change in positions to work, as it gave Duke a guard that could both defend opposing point guards (Scheyer can't) and could generate additional offense (much better than Smith).

Coach K's schemes can work without a big man. They can not work without someone able to apply pressure to the opposing team's point guard, or without the ability to win the turnover battle.

" only a junior"
What a puzzling statement. In college basketball today, a junior is a seasoned veteran. Juniors who will one day be drafted can be found, but rarely seniors. When I think back to the players that led their teams to success last year, I have trouble thinking of any seniors that did.

OK, Toney Douglas. And I'm really not counting Hansbrough because of Lawson. But I think you see my point.