The Clemson Tigers are in desperate need of a quality win against a high-caliber opponent in order to sustain their hopes of getting a berth in this year’s NCAA Tournament. During the last half of the Oliver Purnell era at Clemson, the Tigers started to become a lock for the NCAA tournament. The only question that was asked in that time was whether or not the Tigers would make it out of the first round. Getting Clemson out of the first round of the tournament was a feat that Purnell w
as never able to accomplish in his time at Clemson.
It left the fans wanting more; which was a good thing. The “football school” Clemson University actually had expectations for their basketball program. The fans know that all you have to do is make the dance and you have a shot at doing something special. After all, it is called “March Madness.”
Coach Brad Brownell landed Clemson in the NCAA tournament in his first year as head coach, and led the Tigers to their first tournament win since the ’97 season when former Clemson Head Coach Rick Barnes had the Tigers in the sweet sixteen.
Fast forward to this season and the Tigers are amongst several teams in their own conference fighting for a tournament berth. The Tigers do have quality wins on their resume in beating the Duke Blue Devils by double figures and earning a tough road win against the Florida State Seminoles, but it still doesn’t seem to be enough to place them in the NCAA’s.
According to ESPN’s Joe Lunardi, the Tigers are in the “next four out” column of the bracket. In the Ratings Percentage Index (RPI), Clemson is currently sitting at 68th. That mark ranks the Tigers 8th best in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Two of the main areas of focus in regards to evaluating possible tournament teams are their strength of schedule and overall record against the top rated RPI teams.
The Tigers overall record against teams ranked in the RPI top 50 is a mere 1-4, and 3-6 against the RPI top 100. In order for Clemson to make a serious run at the tournament, they have to earn a win against one of the few remaining quality opponents they have left on their schedule.
A huge step in the right direction could start this Saturday with a victory over the Virginia Cavaliers.
Virginia currently sits at 17th nationally in the RPI and has the 3rd best RPI ranking in the conference; they are just behind Syracuse and Duke. This is just the game the Tigers need to win in order to give them an outside shot at making the dance. A win against the Cavaliers would help the Tigers earn more respect in the eyes of those on the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee. It could also provide some much needed momentum as Clemson heads into the home stretch of their conference schedule.
It is not impossible, but the Tigers will have to play some of their best basketball down the stretch and win some key games in order to see their name roll across the screen come Selection Sunday.