By William Qualkinbush.
By William Qualkinbush.
Out in front of an important weekend in Clemson athletics, here is your Five for Friday…
1. Clemson basketball’s final road stretch is a critical one. The Tigers will play their next-to-last road game of the season on Saturday as they go to Georgia Tech. You have to consider this a must-win for Brad Brownell’s team at this point in the NCAA Tournament discussion.
The Yellow Jackets continue to struggle with injuries, although the return of Trae Golden as a scoring guard against Duke this week was good news. Still, Tech is a mess. Clemson played a horrible game and beat Tech 45-41 at home. Daniel Miller had an absurd offensive game as well. I can’t imagine either of those things happening here.
Clemson is playing with confidence, even in its losses. A confident team should beat Georgia Tech by double digits.
2. Despite what CBSSports.com thinks, Brad Brownell isn’t on the hot seat. In fact, he’s probably one of the favorites for ACC Coach of the Year.
In case you’re unfamiliar with this story, check out this post shared by our very own Will Vandervort yesterday. It will shock you.
The truth is that Brownell is on the short list for conference coach of the year honors. Jim Boeheim is in the discussion on account of winning every game but the last one with a team that’s not totally brimming with superstars. Tony Bennett has subjected the league to utter destruction at Virginia. Roy Williams’ job raising North Carolina from the ashes is worthy of consideration.
But Brownell may have surpassed expectations to a greater degree than any of those guys. My two finalists would be him and Bennett, with the final five games breaking the tie. Right now, Brownell is ahead by a nose because of how unexpected Clemson’s success has been this season.
3. The ACC needs one of its mid-level teams to close with a flourish. Right now, this is a five-bid league with the potential for growth. Teams like Clemson, Florida State, Maryland, and NC State are hanging by a thread.
The Tigers and Wolfpack appear to have the best respective chances to crack the field of 68, but both would need to virtually win out—one loss is the maximum—and probably get a win or two in the ACC Tournament to properly enjoy Selection Sunday.
4. Don’t sleep on Maine. Clemson baseball and its fans probably slept on Eastern Michigan, and for good reason. I think the Eagles were a little bit better than most of us thought, although one bad inning is all it took for the Tigers to drop Friday’s contest.
The Black Bears aren’t that kind of animal (pun intended). They can play, as evidenced by the victory they garnered over Miami last Saturday. I’d put the Hurricanes and Tigers in the same echelon of teams at the moment, so Jack Leggett’s club must proceed with caution this weekend.
5. It will be interesting to see how Steve Wilkerson affects the team. Wilkerson was suspended last weekend for a violation of team rules, so he will be making his debut at 4:00 today. He was a leader offensively for this team last season.
The return of Wilkerson muddies the waters for freshmen Weston Wilson and Eli White, who impressed in different ways last weekend as fill-ins. Having them as versatile late-inning bench pieces should give Leggett plenty of flexibility if any games get tight down the stretch.