|No. 19 Clemson opens Cayman Islands tournament vs. Akron|
The Caribbean isn't a bad place to be during Thanksgiving week.
Just ask coach Brad Brownell.
Brownell's No. 19 Clemson Tigers (3-0) will face Akron in the first round of the Cayman Islands Classic on Monday.
"We are extremely excited to be competing in the Cayman Islands Classic with such a quality field of teams and a destination that our players and fans will enjoy," the coach said.
But it won't be all sun and beaches.
"Looking forward to seeing how our guys progress (in a) tournament setting," Brownell said. "We'll see a bunch of different styles. That'll be good for us."
Brownell said playing three games in three days will help his team prepare for the upcoming ACC regular season.
The Zips have jumped out to a 3-0 start to the season. They won't take Brownell by surprise.
"I know they're coached very well. (Akron coach) John (Groce) and I are friends," Brownell said. "He's done a really good job. He's kind of changed their roster. They've got a really good frontcourt. The point guard is really good, and they're very sound."
Akron senior Jimond Ivey, the team's second leading scorer, said the Zips have plenty of options on offense.
"I just think we have a lot of guys willing to sacrifice, play their role," he told the Akron Beacon Journal. "We have so much talent offensively that if anybody has a bad game -- which I had two in a row technically, and we still won by a lot -- we have guys who can step up and make plays."
Daniel Utomi, a 6-foot-6 junior, leads the Zips with 15.7 points per game.
Groce is eager to see where his team stands.
" 1/8It's 3/8 huge for us to get a gauge," Groce told the Beacon Journal. "The chance to play that type of competition, to be uncomfortable, be challenged, have to prepare for three games in three days, which is like a tournament style at the end of the year. I think it's awesome."
After sleepwalking through a 70-50 win over Division II Cedarville in the season opener, the Zips have shot better than 50 percent from the floor in easy wins over Youngstown State and Chicago State. But Groce said he wants to see more intensity on the defensive end of the court.
"We played good offensively," Groce said, "but we didn't play great defensively."
Fifth-year senior guard Marcquise Reed leads the Tigers with 17.3 points per game. He had 20 points and 13 rebounds in Clemson's season-opening win over The Citadel and scored 26 when the Tigers beat Sam Houston State on Wednesday.
The Cayman Islands Classic debuted a year ago. This year's field includes four 2018 NCAA Tournament teams: the Tigers, Creighton, Georgia State and St. Bonaventure.
Monday's winner will face either Georgia or Illinois State in Tuesday's semifinals.