For a little while, it appeared Clemson had turned things around.
After a slow start to the ACC season, one in which it lost five of their first six games, the Tigers went on a four-game winning streak and moved back to .500 in conference play. All of sudden, the possibility of a second straight NCAA Tournament appearance was back in play.
However, back-to-back last-second one-point losses at Miami and at Louisville, plus Tuesday night’s lackluster performance against No. 16 Florida State has Clemson reeling again. And this time the prospects of making the Big Dance seem dimmer than before.
“We have lost three in a row, but we have been there,” senior forward David Skara said. “We got through it so we think we can still get through it again.”
To get through it again, Clemson (15-11, 5-8 ACC) has to start winning now. The Tigers’ first opportunity comes Saturday when they host Boston College at noon.
Clemson likely needs to win all five of its remaining games to have a chance to make the tournament. That means the Tigers would not only have to beat BC on Saturday, but win at Pittsburgh next Wednesday, against No. 8 North Carolina at home (March 2), at Notre Dame (March 6) and against Syracuse (March 9) to close out the regular season.
After Tuesday’s 77-64 loss to the Seminoles, Clemson dropped two spots in the NET rankings from No. 41 to No. 43. The NET rankings are one of the components the NCAA Selection Committee will use to determine its tournament field next month, which means the Tigers are on the bubble of being one of the last four teams in.
The committee will select 36 teams as at-large bids.
“We need to win a bunch of games here at the finish if we want to do what we want to do,” head coach Brad Brownell said. “But we just need to start with one. We need to try and play better Saturday and then figure out what’s next.”
With four seniors on the team—Skara, guard Shelton Mitchell, guard Marcquise Reed and center Elijah Thomas—Brownell would be shocked if his team did not come back and respond the right way in their final five regular season games.
“Our guys have been coming to practice and battling and taking to coaching,” he said. “I did think our attention to detail tonight was a little bit like Miami, just not all the way there. The Louisville game it was there all the way and I thought we did a lot of great things.
“Our margin (of error) just is not good enough. We have to play really, really well to beat teams. That is just where we are.”
–Above photo by Bart Boatwright/The Clemson Insider