NCAA Tournament Update: Clemson’s Sitting on Bubble

Clemson’s blowout victory over NC State last Saturday gave the Tigers a shot in the arm they desperately needed to stay in the hunt for an NCAA tournament bid. 

ESPN’s bracket analyst Joe Lunardi had Clemson among his grouping of “next four out” teams before the weekend. Following the 96-71 win in Raleigh, Lunardi moved the Tigers up to “first four out.”

Only North Carolina and Arizona State are listed ahead of Clemson in that grouping.

CBS Sports analyst Jerry Palm has Clemson out of the tournament and on his bubble list. 

But all is not lost.

The win over the Wolfpack was a welcomed sight for Brad Brownell as not only did his team win by a large margin, it also earned a Quad 1 victory in the NCAA’s NET rankings, metric the tournament committee will use to select in the field of 68.

Clemson is now 4-2 in that category. 

The Tigers moved up to No. 58 in the NET and fell back two spots Sunday to No. 60. Still, they were in the 80s a week ago.

In Quad 4, Clemson has an 8-2 record. A week ago, the Tigers had three losses in the category to weigh down their overall ranking. South Carolina moved off of Quad 4 and into a Quad 3 loss by simply playing Alabama and Tennessee, a pair of top-3 teams in the NET that beat the Gamecocks. 

It was a huge help, and combined with the NC State win, Clemson is in much better shape with two games to go in the regular season. 

So what do the Tigers have to do to make the Big Dance?

That’s still not clear. Getting a win Tuesday at Virginia, which is ranked 28th, might be enough to put Clemson on the “in” side of the bubble. 

The Tigers would then need to win the regular-season finale against Notre Dame on March 4 to avoid another bad loss. 

That all might be enough. Then again, Clemson might need a win in the ACC tournament. It’s hard to tell.

That win at NC State doesn’t erase the terrible Louisville loss from Feb. 18, but it balances the scales some. It certainly should have impressed the tournament committee. The Wolfpack look like an NCAA tourney team.

Virginia is certainly playing like a beatable team right now. In the last couple of weeks, the Cavaliers have barely survived Louisville and Notre Dame before losing back-to-back games at Boston College and UNC. 

There’s so much left to play for, and Clemson didn’t give up after that Louisville loss. Instead, it went out and beat Syracuse and NC State by a combined 43 points in the last two games. 

The Tigers will try to keep the hot shooting going against the Cavaliers at John Paul Jones Arena at 7 p.m. Tuesday.

ACC still on the line

There’s also a lot on the line still in terms of the ACC standings as well. Clemson is far out of the race for the conference’s regular-season championship. 

If the Tigers win the next two games, they’d need Notre Dame to upset Pittsburgh and then have the Panthers beat Miami on Saturday. 

That would leave Clemson and Pitt at 15-5 in league play and the Hurricanes at 14-6. The Tigers would then be granted the title and the No. 1 overall seed for next week’s conference tournament because of their head-to-head win over the Panthers on Jan. 7. 

Would the top team in the ACC really get left out of the NCAA tournament, despite a weak reputation this year? That feels unlikely, although Pitt is in a similar spot with a NET ranking of 53rd.

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