Clemson plays at Pitt tonight in a must-win situation
Clemson is playing for its NCAA Tournament life tonight as it heads to Pittsburgh to play the Panthers at the Petersen Center in Pittsburgh, Pa. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m.
The Tigers sit squarely on the bubble as March Madness approaches. ESPN has Clemson projected as a No. 12 seed and as one of the last teams in the tournament field by Joe Lunardi. He has the Tigers playing in one of the play-in games.
CBS sports bracket watch expert Jerry Palm thinks the Tigers still have some work to do in order to get in. He too has them on the bubble, but he has Clemson as one of the first four out of the tournament. Palm believes the Tigers have to win three of their final four games, plus a win in the ACC Tournament to earn a bid.
Clemson currently ranks 43 in the latest NCAA NET rankings.
“It does not matter as much right now. What matters is in two weeks more than now,” Clemson head coach Brad Brownell said.
Brownell is right, none of it will matter if the Tigers (16-11, 6-8 ACC) don’t beat Pitt tonight.
“Again, what should matter to you is trying to play your best and being focused on preparing and putting yourself in the right mindset,” he said.
With four seniors on the team—four graduate players in Shelton Mitchell, Marcquise Reed, Elijah Thomas and David Skara—who helped Clemson reach the Sweet 16 Round of last year’s tournament, the Tigers should be in the right mindset.
As older players they are expected to make sure their younger teammates understand the position they are in and make sure they are ready to play both physically and mentally.
“I don’t know if we have always done that. I think sometimes we have,” Brownell said. “I think we have played a lot of very competitive games on the road. Some games we have played really, really well and most of the time pretty hard.”
The Tigers are 2-7 in true road games this season, including 1-6 in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Clemson has had its opportunities to win more, though. It trailed at Syracuse by just four points and had the basketball late in the game but could not execute enough to get the win.
At NC State the Tigers had a seven-point lead with under a minute to play, but they went 2-for-8 at the foul line down the stretch and the Wolfpack hit a three-pointer at the buzzer to beat them.
Clemson did not play well at Miami, and the Hurricanes made a last-second desperate shot to beat the Tigers by one point.
They rallied in the closing seconds and had a chance to win at Louisville when Marcquise Reed stole an inbounds pass with three seconds to play. But Reed’s shot was blocked, and John Newman missed on the follow as time expired, handing them another one-point loss.
Instead of entering the final four games with 20-7 record and in comfortable position to make the NCAA Tournament, Clemson is 16-11 and has little room for error in the last two weeks of the regular season.
And more than anything right now, they can’t afford a loss to Pitt.
“We just not have been quite good enough to win a couple of them and at the end of the day that is what we are measured on, so that is what we have to get done.,” Brownell said.