Clemson, Alabama ready to keep plowing through season

NCAA Men's Basketball

Two teams with head coaches who are firm believers in continuing full speed ahead with the college basketball season will meet Saturday when undefeated Clemson and once-beaten Alabama play in the Pit Boss Holiday Hoopsgiving Tournament in Atlanta.

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski questioned if college basketball should continue “plowing through” the schedule even as COVID-19 numbers continue to escalate across the U.S.

Three ACC/Big Ten Challenge games were cancelled last week.

But Clemson coach Brad Brownell and Alabama coach Nate Oats are convinced that plowing through might be the best alternative.

“I think the kids really want to play,” Brownell said. “I think it would be even harder on them if we were doing all of this with no basketball and no games. I think it could be crushing to guys.”

Brownell, whose team is off to a 4-0 start, contends that basketball is the lone college experience now for his players.

“They are not going to class; they are taking classes online,” Brownell said. “They really have no social life. There is no college experience as you know it. Their only outlet is to come to the gym and practice and shoot and see their buddies a little bit and get excited about trying to be a part of a team and try to go compete and win games.”

Oats agrees.

“We should 100 percent be playing basketball,” Alabama’s second-year coach said. “Do you think if Coach K hadn’t lost the two nonconference games at home he’d still be saying that? I think we’d have a whole lot more problems if we weren’t playing games.”

Both teams have plenty of playing ahead.

Clemson is set to play three games in the next week, including its Atlantic Coast Conference opener at Virginia Tech.

Saturday’s game kicks off a stretch of four games in 10 days for Alabama, with those four opponents having a combined record of 13-3.

Alabama (3-1) opened the Maui Invitational last week with a loss to Stanford, but bounced back to claim double-digit victories against UNLV and Providence.

The Crimson Tide has four starters back from last season’s 16-15 team. All-SEC John Petty Jr. leads the team with 10 3-pointers this season and is 20 shy of owning the program’s all-time record in that category (263 makes held by Brian Williams, 1996-99).

Clemson has won all four of its games by double digits, including a 67-51 romp against Maryland on Wednesday. The Tigers are led by Aamir Simms, who leads the team in scoring (13.0 points per game).

–Field Level Media

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