Clemson Improving But Possibly Too LateAfter an overtime thriller against N.C. State this past Saturday, Clemson has won its last four out of five games with that one loss being to seventh-ranked North Carolina. The Tigers’ ACC record now stands at 7-7 with two more games to play before the conference tournament.
The next two games are both rematch games. The first game is against Virginia Tech in which the Tigers lost by just two points and then they face #22 Florida State, a team Clemson beat by 20 earlier in the season. If the Tigers can manage to win both of these games that would leave them with a 9-7 record in the ACC, the very same record that has allowed them to reach the big dance in each of the last three seasons.
The big issue that could keep Clemson out of the NCAA Tournament is not their ACC-play but their non-conference play at the beginning of the season. Over the past few years Clemson has been known for its fast starts to the season, including a 17-0 start in 2006, and then playing worse down the stretch once conference play starts. This season however has been just the opposite.
Going into their conference games, the Tigers were sitting at just 8-6 with some bad losses on their schedule. Of those six losses, five of them were to teams with a current RPI of 110 or worse. The two worst losses include one to South Carolina (186) and another to Hawaii (194).
Non-Conference Losses (RPI’s): College of Charleston – 110, Coastal Carolina – 176, South Carolina- 186, Arizona – 69, UTEP -135, Hawaii – 194
Clemson defeats N.C. State in overtime Saturday. photo credit: orangeandwhite.com
Since starting ACC-play, Coach Brad Brownell has managed to utilize his young talent and found ways to keep Clemson in almost every game. Not counting the Duke or UNC losses, Clemson’s five other losses have been by only four points or less.
Saturday Clemson was finally able to show that they have the ability to win close games. Andre Young managed to hit two clutch three-pointers late in the game, including the game-winner in overtime to hold off the Wolfpack.
However, despite all this recent success and improvements, the Tigers will probably be looking at the NIT as their best chance for postseason play.
Even if Clemson is able to win their next two games and make a run in the ACC Tournament, it is going to be very hard for the NCAA Tournament committee to overlook the Tigers early season struggles.
This may be the season that Clemson ends its streak of going to the big dance four seasons in a row.
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