With 7 games left Tigers stand alone in second place in the ACC
When you look at the ACC men’s basketball standings, you will notice something that does not happen very often. Clemson is in second place with an 8-3 record, the best start for the men’s program in 21 years.
The Tigers (19-4) are also ranked 16th in the latest Associated Press Poll, the highest ranking for the program since the 2009 season.
“I’m just proud of my team and proud of my players for what we have been able to do so far,” Clemson head coach Brad Brownell said on Tuesday. “It has been a very good first couple of months of the season. But we understand there is a lot left so we just keep busy and try to figure out the best way for our team to play.”
Clemson can accomplish something it has not done in 31 years when it hosts Pitt on Thursday. No Clemson team since the 1986-’87 season has won 20 games this early. That team, led by ACC Player of the Year Horace Grant, won its 20th game on Feb. 4, 1987.
A win will also mark the first time under Brownell the Tigers have won 20 games before the month of March.
“I think we have done some good things here lately, trying to adjust to Donte (Grantham’s) absence,” the Clemson coach said. “Obviously, Gabe has played extremely well so that has been helpful. Obviously, there is a long way to go and still a lot to play for.”
Though it has been a good couple of months for the Tigers, there is still plenty to accomplish as well. Clemson would love to put itself in position for to be a top 4 seed in next month’s ACC Tournament, and of course be the highest seed it can be when the NCAA Tournament begins a week later, which would mark the program’s first appearance in the tournament since the 2010-’11 season.
Brownell says the coaches and players consistently talk about things that change around them as the season moves forward. Things such as all the media attention they have received. All the pats on the back from the fans and the students and just handling success in general.
“I know we will consistently talk about things as we move forward, but I don’t think we make a bigger deal out of it than it really is at this time,” he said. “But we also don’t put our head in the sand and never talk about where we are, what we have the opportunity to do and play for and those kinds of things.
“I think there is just an honest dialogue with your team to be honest with you. I think is one thing. But as important as that is, I think, it is more important to make sure they understand why they are doing well and reinforcing that this kind of behavior is why we are doing well.”
Brownell is worried if they change the behavior that has got them to this point, then they will become overconfident and will not want to work as hard and their attention to detail will fall off and the outcomes will start to change.
“I think it is a delicate balance,” he said. “I think the only other thing it will be is that we do not change our practices. But I think we are smart about how we practice in terms of just when to be demanding and when to be encouraging and when to be lite and when to be hard.
“I think having a good feel of that is equaling as important.”