This weekend the calendar turns to every college basketball fan’s favorite month of the year. That’s right, March! It’s month full of tournaments, dreams, upsets and champions. And the Clemson Basketball team is still hoping to get in on the action.
Despite losing to Wake Forest on Tuesday, the Tigers are still 17-10 with an 8-7 ACC record, and are considered a bubble team to make it into the Big Dance. They have 3 more regular season games that will be critical wins and will be promised at least one game during the ACC Tournament.
The Tigers have continued to improve all season. They have been known all season for their solid defense, but struggled offensively. After Tuesday’s game, the Tigers were ranked second in the nation in point allowed, with 56 points per game.
K.J. McDaniels, the Tigers’ stud junior forward, shouldered most of the offensively load until recently. As of late, both Demarcus Harrison and Rod Hall have stepped up to be contributors to the offense, taking a little of the pressure off of McDaniels. This is giving them a more balanced team than they have had for most of the season.
Harrison, a transfer from BYU, has posted double-digit scores in the Tigers’ last 3 games (14, 15 and 15 points). Hall was a significant factor to the Tigers’ scoring offense at the beginning of the season but could not quite get the shots to fall during December and January. He has finally gotten his rhythm back, and even leads the team in scoring with 20 points, in Clemson’s win over NC State. Center Landry Nnoko has also started to be more of a presence under the basket.
The Tigers still depend heavily on their defense to win their games, but they finally seem to have something going on the offensively side of the court that does not only involve McDaniels.
Just being in the conversation to be apart of the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2011 is a huge accomplishment for the Tigers. This is a team who were predicted to finish 14th in the ACC, but have now positioned themselves to finish 5th in an ACC, which has increased in strength with the additions of Syracuse, Notre Dame and Pittsburg.
Clemson’s tough schedule against some of the best teams in the country (Syracuse, Duke, Virginia, Pitt and UNC) will have to be taken into consideration. Six of the Tigers’ 10 losses have been by 6 points or less. They played some close games against some of the best there is this season. Playing in the top heavy ACC could also hurt their chances of making the tournament considering there are 6 or 7 ACC teams ranked ahead of the Tigers.
It has been a special season for the Tigers, who have come so far from their first game. As Coach Brad Brownell said after the Wake Forest loss, “We’ve put ourselves in position to do some really good things this year, some special things. But we’ve got to finish.”
The Tigers have 3 remaining games, all at home, where they are at their best. They need wins against Maryland, Miami and Pittsburg and a win or two in the ACC tournament wouldn’t hurt.