Win More Games, Clemson’s Best Shot to Make NCAAs

If the Clemson men’s basketball team wants to make its second trip to the NCAA Tournament in three seasons, the plan is simple.

“We have to win,” forward Hunter Tyson said.

Obviously, it is easier said than done. Granted, the easiest way for Clemson to secure an NCAA Tournament bid is to just win the ACC Tournament and earn the conference’s automatic bid.

However, no Clemson team has won the ACC Tournament in its 70-year history. In fact, the Tigers have won more than one game in an ACC Tournament just twice. In both instances—1962 and 2008—they lost in the championship game.

As one can see, winning is not so easy.

Unfortunately for the Tigers (22-9, 14-6 ACC) that is probably their best plan, though. Many of the bracketology experts have Clemson on the bubble heading into tonight’s quarterfinal matchup with No. 6 seed NC State (9:30 p.m./ESPN).

The Tigers, who are the No. 3 seed in the ACC Tournament, are ranked No. 61 in the NCAA’s NET rankings, one of the metrics the selection committee will lean heavily on this Sunday.

Some bracketologists feel Clemson has to win at least two games in the ACC Tournament to make the field. It is frustrating for the Tigers to see themselves on the bubble because they finished third in the ACC standings for the first time in 15 years and were just a game back of tying for first place.

It’s frustrating because they won 14 ACC games, a program record and are the only bubble team with a winning record in Quad 1 games. The Tigers are 4-3 against Quad 1 opponents.

Those four Quad 1 wins are against Virginia Tech, Pitt, Duke and NC State. Three of those Quad 1 wins came on the road.

“I think that is significant because it is very hard to win on the road against quality teams,” Brownell said. “That is part of where this whole thing came from. Who can you beat? That’s part of it.”

Clemson is a combined 4-0 against Pitt, NC State and Duke, four teams all of the bracketologiest believe are in the NCAA Tournament.

“With our stain, we lost to a couple of teams that have not had good years,” Brownell said. “But we certainly have proved we can beat good teams and we have beat them away from home.”

All but one of Clemson’s Quad 1 opportunities have been away from Littlejohn Coliseum. The Tigers played five Quad 1 games on the road and went 3-2. They are 1-0 at home and 0-1 on a neutral floor.

“I do think there are some things in our favor, but you have to look for them,” Brownell said. “How much are people going to do that? I don’t know. It’s what’s worse? A bad day? Or what is better? A couple of good days? What are you going to examine.”

As former Duke standout, now ESPN analyst, Jay Bilas often says, “Who have you beat?”

“We have certainly proved that and there are some teams in our league that we have beaten that seem to be in,” Brownell said. “So, the best thing we can do is go play well this weekend and take care of own business.”

–photo by Jonathan Abercrombie / All Clemson Tigers

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