Clemson Basketball: The long road ahead

Starting Tuesday, the Clemson Tigers will be put to the test in the ACC as they begin their long stretch of five road games out of their next six games. The Tigers are currently tied for second in the ACC with Pittsburg, both having identical 4-1 ACC records. They will travel to Pittsburg on Tuesday, and then travel to North Carolina, Florida State, Syracuse and Notre Dame.

clemson basketball

K.J. McDaniels goes for rebound (credit: Pete Iacobelli/AP)

The Tigers have proven to be one of the toughest teams to beat in the ACC because of their fierce defense. They are off to their first 4-1 start in the ACC since 1996-97 season, and for only the 4th time in program history. The Tigers have held all their ACC opponents to less than 60 points, but the true challenge will come over the next three weeks.

The Tigers start their road stretch on January 21st at one of the hardest places to win, Pittsburg’s Peterson Events Center. These two teams have only faced once before… in 1958, where the Panthers won 60-50. Pittsburg has won 97 of their last 109 home games, with a 13 game home win streak in tact. This game will pin two of the best small forwards in the ACC and two ACC Player of the Year candidates against one another in K.J. McDaniels and Lamar Patterson.  If the Tigers pull out a win against #20 ranked Pitt, they will be the lone team in second place of the ACC and also have consecutive wins over ranked teams for the first time since 1997.

The Tigers will then move on to Chapel Hill (January 26th) as they look for their first EVER win at UNC. The Tar Hills have an astonishing all time record of 56-0 at home when playing Clemson. The Tar Heels are vulnerable at home this season though, with three losses to unranked Texas, Miami and Belmont.  The Tar Heels only have 1 ACC win so far this season and have been amazingly inconsistent this season, as have their two stars: James Michael McAdoo and Marcus Paige. If there was ever a time for Clemson to take home their first win in Chapel Hill, it is now.

Next, on February 1st, the Tigers head down south to Tallahassee to seek a little revenge from the Florida State Seminoles, who embarrassed the Tigers during their first meeting. The Noles won 56-41, but the Tigers are a much better team than they showed against the Seminoles a couple weeks ago. Finally, on February 4th, after 17 days since their last game at home, the Tigers will get to come back to Littlejohn to play Georgia Tech (1-4 ACC).

The Tigers will then travel 853 miles to the Carrier Dome for possibly their toughest match up of the season against current 18-0 and number 2 ranked Syracuse (Feb. 9). The Orange have at least 3 NBA ready players in Tyler Ennis, Jerami Grant and NCAA Player of the Year Candidate, C.J. Fair. The Orange have one of the nation’s best defense, which will prove to be a real problem for Clemson’s struggling offense. They are the team to beat in the ACC.

Two days later, the Tigers will head over to South Bend Indiana to face the newest member of the ACC, Notre Dame. This will round out the Tigers extensive road stretch. Although the Fighting Irish are only (currently) 2-3 in the ACC, the Tigers will surely be exhausted by the time they tip off and this game could prove to be another big challenge.

Clemson has had one of the ACC’s most surprising seasons so far, but these next 3 weeks will help to define the Tigers’ season and see what kind of team this really is. The nation is about to see if this young Tiger team is the real deal. Clemson coach Brad Brownell said that during this stretch, “We’re going to have to find a lot of grit. We’re going to have to show a lot of toughness and maturity, and play exceptionally well to come out of this well…. Hopefully if we do well in this stretch, we’ll have a chance to do something special with the last three weeks of the season.”

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  • DrJ

    Excellent article…good information…well written.