As the football calendar officially flips to basketball, here’s a fact some people may find too insignificant to even mention.
Clemson won an ACC road game.
Your initial response, especially for those unfamiliar with Clemson’s basketball history, might be something like “whoop-dee-doo” or the face you make when you hope the next words out of a person’s mouth give what was just said some intrinsic meaning. But that statement is a big deal.
It’s hard to win on the road, no matter the sport. This is the case to an even greater extent in college basketball. Facts and figures have proven this for years, and the ACC is a perfect microcosm of the rest of the nation.
To illustrate the value of every road win, one might just look at how hard it has been historically to do such a thing in the ACC. Since Boston College joined the conference to make it a 12-team league in 2005, ACC road teams are a combined 277-503. That means a stock home team has won in 64.5 percent of its games over the past eight seasons.
In an expanded 18-game conference schedule last season, home team winning percentage increased to .685—the second-highest rate over the eight-year expansion period. One might expect similar numbers this season since road teams have not won 40 percent of league contests since the ACC roster expanded to 12 teams in 2005.
In 2013-14—with Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, and Syracuse now in the fold—road teams have begun the year with a 7-6 record overall in league games. This is an unsustainable pace and should be virtually ignored due to its being around 12 percent of the eventual sample size.
The fact is that there probably won’t be more than 30 or so additional road wins in the entire conference this season. To accomplish anything of value, Clemson probably needs to win at least two of the remaining eight games on the schedule.
Historically, getting three road wins has been a chore for the Tigers. Here is a list of the road records of all Atlantic Coast Conference schools since Brad Brownell took over the Clemson program prior to the start of the 2009-10 campaign:
North Carolina 18-7
Florida State 12-13
Miami (FL) 12-13
N.C. State 9-16
Boston College 5-20
Georgia Tech 5-20
Virginia Tech 5-20
Wake Forest 1-24
A couple of things stand out about this list. Duke and North Carolina dramatically skew the data, meaning the expected outcome for the rest of the conference is probably much lower than the average road winning percentage.
Clemson finds itself in the lower half of this list, averaging fewer than two road wins per season in the Brownell era. A 3-6 mark would beat the expectation on an annual basis for the Tigers.
In my opinion, Clemson has a pretty good chance to get to this threshold based on the remaining schedule. There are three winnable games left (Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, and Wake Forest) and one wild card (Notre Dame). I don’t think many people expect the Tigers to win at Pittsburgh, North Carolina, Florida State, or Syracuse.
Guard play is so important in road games, and Clemson has veteran guards that have protected the ball and a stifling defense. Those things generally travel well.
We don’t know if the early success of road teams in the ACC will continue, but we can assume it will taper off at least a bit. All Clemson needs to do is win a quarter of its remaining road tilts within the league, a feat that is feasible but easier said than done.