Sunday, February 23, 2014

Clemson Tourney Tracker - Post GT Edition

All credit to Brad Brownell and the Clemson basketball team. Following the three game losing streak where they lost tight games against Notre Dame and Virginia, I thought this team might begin to fold. But they haven't and have rallied for back to back conference wins to keep their name in the hat for a potential NCAA At-Large berth. It won't be easy, and they're still on the wrong side of the bubble, but there is hope and optimism in Tiger Town, and as a Clemson fan, that is all you can ask.

With just four games remaining, the schedule sets up nicely for a strong finish. Clemson will play its final road game Tuesday at Wake, followed by three straight home games against Maryland, Miami, & Pitt. Clemson still needs three wins to reach the 11 win total, which all of sudden looks quite achievable. The only question now is will it be enough, or too little too late? History has shown 11 conference wins to be enough, but history has never used Clemson basketball as its litmus test. However, until proven otherwise, let's assume Clemson will be given a fair shake.

So, we will hold to the 20 total wins, 11 conference wins, RPI around 50, and Strength of Schedule under 100 as our goals, and let the chips fall where they may.

Goal: 20 Total wins, 11 Conference wins, RPI around 50, and SOS under 100
Current: 17-9, 8-6, with 4 games remaining (3 home, 1 road)
RPI: 67 (using Live-RPI)
SOS: 95 (using Live-RPI)
Others: 45/83 (Pomeroy), 53/81 (ESPN's BPI), & 72 (Dance Card), Not Listed (Bracketology)

Home Games:
Clemson's final three games of the season are at home, and depending on which Clemson shows up, all three are winnable. Clemson showed promise against now ACC leader UVA before wilting at the end. Three days later they played their best basketball of the year in throttling NC State. If Clemson gets repeat performances against Maryland, Miami, & Pitt, they will have a chance to finish the season on a six game winning streak. If not, then they may be NIT bound.

Realistically, Clemson should win 2 of the 3 home games, leaving Clemson needing to win at Wake to reach 11 conference wins.

What really happens? Clemson splits with Maryland and Miami, leaving Pitt as Clemson's most important senior night in Brownell's tenure.

Road Games:
The road games have gone as we expected: competitive loss at Syracuse, close loss at ND, and a win at Georgia Tech. With just one more road game remaining, Clemson has a chance to win their 5th conference road game of the season, which equals their road wins over the previous three seasons combined. Right now, Wake is reeling and Clemson needs to dispatch of them quickly. If they hang around, they will begin to gain confidence, and Wake is a good enough team to beat Clemson if they get going.

What really happens? Clemson and Wake go back and forth, but Clemson pulls out a tight win. With the win, Clemson remains poised to reach the 11 conference wins they need.

Summary:
Clemson needs just three more conference wins to reach the magic 11. In addition to reaching 11 conference wins, Clemson would also reach the 20 win mark. For a team picked to finish ahead of only VaTech, just getting the eight wins they have seems like quite the accomplishment. To add five more seems unthinkable. But if Clemson plays defense the way they did against Duke, FSU, & GT, then anyone remaining on their schedule is beatable. However, if they turn in performances like they did at Pitt and UNC, then the eight conference wins they have will be all they get.

No matter what anyone thinks, a ticket to the Big Dance is a viable option for this team. The good news is they are the only ones who can determine their future. The bad news is it won't be pretty.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Clemson Tourney Tracker - Post ND & Pre UVA Edition

When it's all said and done, Tuesday night's 2OT loss at Notre Dame may be the moment where Clemson realizes their dream of playing in the NCAA Tournament fluttered away. Before that moment, Clemson was 5th in the ACC, two games above 0.500, and right on the cusp of being a bubble team. Since then, Clemson has fallen to the bottom of the Next Four Out and seen their RPI ratings drop below those of many of their contemporaries.

But as a Clemson fan, it's hard to be too down on this team. The resiliency shown Tuesday night was something I have not seen out of a Clemson team in quite a while. While you could look at the missed opportunities, namely Rod Hall's free throws and KJ's 3 attempt, in reality, this team had no business even having a chance to win. They trailed by 7 with under 3 to go and 5 with 1:37 left in regulation and again by 4 with 10 seconds left in the 1st OT. If Notre Dame is able to make any sort of play in either situation, Clemson doesn't even have the chance to tie or win. For the game, Clemson had possession of the ball just 4 times with the lead. In those 4 possessions, they scored just one basket: when it was 16-15.

With that loss, Clemson has now lost 2 games in a row and has fallen to 15-8 (6-5). Saturday's home game against UVA is now a critical, must win game. Unfortunately, UVA is the hottest team this side of Syracuse. They have won 8 in a row and 11 of 12. The only loss in that stretch: 4 points at Cameron Indoor.

The good news is Virginia is nearly identical in style to Clemson, so Clemson should not feel uncomfortable with suffocating defenses and extended offensive droughts. Also in Clemson's favor is KJ McDaniels. He will be the best player on the floor and could be the difference maker in a tight, defensive game.

With us now knowing what's at stake, here's a breakdown of where Clemson stands and where they want to be:

Goal: 20 Total wins, 11 Conference wins, RPI around 50, and SOS under 100
Current: 15-8, 6-5, with 7 games remaining (5 home, 2 road)
RPI: 72 (using realtimerpi.com - 7-8 point tumble after ND loss)
SOS: 119 (using realtimerpi.com - 9 point drop)
Others: 54 (Pomeroy), 59 (ESPN's BPI), & 74 (Dance Card), Next Four Out (Bracketology)

Home Games:
Following Tuesday night's loss to Notre Dame, Clemson gets 5 of 7 contests at home. Even with how well this team plays at home, it is unreasonable to expect them to win each of those 5 games considering two of those games are against a streaking UVA team and a Pitt team that crushed Clemson by 30 earlier in the season.

Best bet it to split the UVA and Pitt games and snag the other 3 games, giving Clemson 10 conference wins and needing only one road win to reach 11.

What really happens? Clemson gets the UVA-Pitt split, but drops a game to Maryland or Miami, making Clemson 3-2 and giving them 9 total conference wins.

Road Games:
As predicted, Clemson was unable to steal a win at Notre Dame, but both of their two remaining road games remaining are winnable. Even with Clemson's Jekyll & Hyde play on the road, they should be able to snag at least one of these two games. If they get just one, the ACC Tournament becomes critical and Selection Sunday nerve-wracking. If they get them both, that would give them 5 road wins, which may be enough to get them in the tournament. If they get none, they better hope to sweep the home schedule.

What really happens? Clemson rebounds to lock down both GT & Wake, giving Clemson the 11 wins they need.

Summary:
Clemson needs to find five additional conference wins among their final 7 games. In addition to reaching 11 conference wins, Clemson would also reach the 20 win mark. For a team picked to finish ahead of only VaTech, just getting the six wins they have seems like quite the accomplishment. To add five more seems unthinkable. But if Clemson plays defense the way they did against Duke, FSU, & GT, then anyone remaining on their schedule is beatable. However, if they turn in performances like they did at Pitt and UNC, then the six conference wins they have will be all they get.

No matter what anyone thinks, a ticket to the Big Dance is a viable option for this team. The good news is they are the only ones who can determine their future. The bad news is it won't be pretty.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Clemson's Tourney Tracker - Post 'Cuse Edition

If you poll most Clemson fans, you will find few who thought Clemson had a legitimate shot to knock off undefeated and #1 Syracuse. However, after that game, many Clemson people felt like it was Clemson who beat themselves more than Syracuse doing it for them. And so goes life on the road. Lose by 30 to Pitt & UNC, beat FSU, and play toe to toe with the top team in the land. And while moral victories play well at the water cooler, they do little for the selection committee. What Clemson needs now are wins. Five more, to be exact...

Clemson currently sits at 15-7 (6-4) and squarely on the bubble, though it is a bit crowded. Clemson has a better record and more conference wins than many of their bubble mates, but a weaker RPI and Strength of Schedule. For instance, Clemson sits tied for 5th in the ACC, but well behind fellow conference mates FSU, Maryland, and NC State in the RPI rankings. Same goes for other conferences as Clemson leads teams like Mizzou, Wisconsin, & Ohio State in conference play, but trail them in the rankings. Much like the BCS, these comparisons will begin to sort themselves out as the calendar turns from February to March.

But like any bubble team, the next game is the most important, and for Clemson, it's their first ever trip to Notre Dame. Brownell should feel right at home in Indiana, though I'm unsure how the remainder of the team will take to Atlantic Coast Conference play stemming from the Midwest. Notre Dame is a team many thought to be Tourney worthy, though they've struggled mightily in the ACC. Don't expect many tears from this Clemson team or fellow ACC alums.

One thing to expect from Notre Dame is a close game. Of their 12 losses, only three have been by double digits (Clemson has 4 out of 7 for comparison purposes). Surprisingly, all three double digit losses have come at home. Hopefully Clemson can add a 13th loss to Notre Dame's resume.

So, with the next game teed up, let's take a look at where we stand - and where we're trying to go:

Goal: 20 Total wins, 11 Conference wins, RPI around 50, and SOS under 100
Current: 15-7, 6-4, with 8 games remaining (5 home, 3 road)
RPI: 65 (using realtimerpi.com - definite uptick following 'Cuse loss)
SOS: 110 (using realtimerpi.com)
Others: 49 (Pomeroy), 59 (ESPN's BPI), & 74 (Dance Card), First Four Out (Bracketology)

Home Games:
Following Sunday night's loss to Syracuse, Clemson gets 5 of 8 contests at home. Even with how well this team plays at home, it is unreasonable to expect them to win each of those 5 games considering two of those games are against a ranked UVA team and a Pitt team that crushed Clemson by 30 earlier in the season.

Best bet it to split the UVA and Pitt games and snag the other 3 games, giving Clemson 10 conference wins and needing only one road win to reach 11.

What really happens? Clemson gets the UVA-Pitt split, but drops a game to Maryland or Miami, making Clemson 3-2 and giving them 9 total conference wins.

Road Games:
Each of Clemson's three road games remaining are winnable. Even with Clemson's Jekyll & Hyde play on the road, they should be able to snag at least one of these three games. If they get just one, the ACC Tournament becomes critical and Selection Sunday nerve-wracking. If they get two, that would give them 5 road wins, which may be enough to get them in the tournament. If they get none, they better hope to sweep the home schedule.

What really happens? Clemson is unable to scratch out a win at ND, but rebounds to lock down both GT & Wake, giving Clemson the 11 wins they need.

Summary:
Clemson needs to find five additional conference wins among their final 9 games. In addition to reaching 11 conference wins, Clemson would also reach the 20 win mark. For a team picked to finish ahead of only VaTech, just getting the six wins they have seems like quite the accomplishment. To add five more seems unthinkable. But if Clemson plays defense the way they did against Duke, FSU, & GT, then anyone remaining on their schedule is beatable. However, if they turn in performances like they did at Pitt and UNC, then the six conference wins they have will be all they get.

No matter what anyone thinks, a ticket to the Big Dance is a viable option for this team. The good news is they are the only ones who can determine their future. The bad news is it won't be pretty.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Clemson's Tourney Tracker - Post GT & Pre 'Cuse Edition

Well, Tuesday night went exactly like we thought it would with Clemson eking out an ugly win against Georgia Tech. But when it comes to Clemson basketball, you never disparage a win, especially a conference win. With that win, Clemson moves to 6-3 in the ACC and inches closer to reaching 11 conference wins, which we consider to be the magic number to earn an at-large bid. Also, with the win, Clemson received a slight uptick in RPI and Strength of Schedule numbers, though both values are below where they need to be for consideration.

While Clemson has managed the schedule well, the next three games will ultimately determine their long term fate, including postseason play. As mentioned, Clemson currently sits 6-3 in the ACC, but travels to Syracuse and Notre Dame, followed by hosting Virginia. If Clemson is unable to scratch out one of those wins, their record will quickly fall to 6-6 and be stuck in the middle of mediocre ACC and off many pundits radar. More importantly, it leaves Clemson in a situation with little room for error and even less confidence to fall back on.

But before we get too far ahead, let's recap the goals and Clemson's current situation in terms of making the NCAA Tournment:

Goal: 11 Conference wins, RPI around 50, and SOS under 100
Current: 6-3, with 9 games remaining (5 home, 4 road)
RPI: 68 (using realtimerpi.com)
SOS: 129 (using realtimerpi.com)
Others: 47 (Pomeroy), 53 (ESPN's BPI), & 68 (Dance Card), First Four Out (Bracketology)

Home Games:
Even with Tuesday's night home win over GT, Clemson still has 5 of 9 contests at home. Even with how well this team plays at home, it is unreasonable to expect them to win each of those 5 games considering two of those games are against a ranked UVA team and a Pitt team that crushed Clemson by 30 earlier in the season.

Best bet it to split the UVA and Pitt games and snag the other 3 games, giving Clemson 10 conference wins and needing only one road win to reach 11.

What really happens? Clemson gets the UVA-Pitt split, but drops a game to Maryland or Miami, making Clemson 3-2 and giving them 9 total conference wins.

Road Games:
Clemson's next two games are on the road against former Big East members, starting with #1 Syracuse. While it's unrealistic to expect Clemson to win at Syracuse, the other three road games are certainly winnable. Clemson should be able to grab at least one, if not two wins between Notre Dame, GT, & Wake. If they get just one, the ACC Tournament becomes critical and Selection Sunday nerve-wracking. If they get two, that would give them 5 road wins, which may be enough to get them in the tournament. If they get none, they better hope to sweep the home schedule.

What really happens? Clemson is unable to scratch out a win at ND, but rebounds to lock down both GT & Wake, giving Clemson the 11 wins they need.

Summary:
Clemson needs to find five additional conference wins among their final 9 games. In addition to reaching 11 conference wins, Clemson would also reach the 20 win mark. For a team picked to finish ahead of only VaTech, just getting the six wins they have seems like quite the accomplishment. To add five more seems unthinkable. But if Clemson plays defense the way they did against Duke, FSU, & GT, then anyone remaining on their schedule, other than Syracuse, is beatable. However, if they turn in performances like they did at Pitt and UNC, then the six conference wins they have will be all they get.

No matter what anyone thinks, a ticket to the Big Dance is a viable option for this team. The good news is they are the only ones who can determine their future. The bad news is it won't be pretty.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

10 Reasons We Know it's Signing Day in Columbia, SC

In honor of National Signing Day (NSD) being a rousing success across the south, here are 10 reasons Columbia, SC knew it was the first Wednesday in February:
  1. The Whitney suddenly has 20 new vacancies
  2. Everyone is jealous of the optimism in places like Charlottesville, Knoxville, Lexington, & Happy Valley
  3. The coaches at App State are trying to figure out why they keep losing recruits
  4. Richland County Sherriff's Office begins holding special seminars
  5. Phil Kornblut is constantly fanning himself, trying to cool off
  6. Five Points is as clean as it will ever be
  7. Lexington Medical Center is swamped with babies named after the recruiting class, like Tyshun, Kalan, & Abu
  8. The black market sees a spike in demand for fake smoke and cages
  9. The incoming players want rings for finishing 10th - in the SEC
  10. Spurrier is spotted in golf spikes, asking for directions to Augusta
In all seriousness, good luck to all recruits who have chosen this state to call home for the next four years, especially those who chose the orange and purple of The Promised Land.

Monday, February 3, 2014

NCAA Tourney Tracker - 2014 Version

This time last year, we began a segment called "Tourney Tracker" as we tried to determine what Clemson needed to do to earn an NCAA Tournament berth. Following publication of said article, we were routinely panned, flogged, and ridiculed as no one else gave that Clemson team a chance. Unfortunately our hope was unfounded as Clemson lost 10 of their last 11 to finish 13-18 (5-13).

So, when Clemson started ACC play 4-1, needless to say we were a little cautious. Optimistic, but cautious. But after seeing what Clemson was able to accomplish in Tallahassee, we are beginning to believe again. Maybe not fully, but enough to think maybe this team can get back to the Tournament.

But before we go all Gene Chizik, I mean Dabo, on this team, I think it prudent to take a hard look at where this team is and how it gets to the Tourney.

With ACC expansion, the performances of previous ACC and Big East teams should be considered. From the ACC, we've seen multiple teams with 9-7 records not get selected (much to the chagrin of Dick Vitale), but in the Big East, we've seen eleven teams make it, though all had at least 9 conference wins prior to the Big East Tournament. When you factor in a top heavy ACC, the non-balanced conference schedule, and Clemson's soft non-conference slate, Clemson needs to plan for at least 11 conference wins, including the ACC Tournament, to get selected.

In addition to 11 conference wins, Clemson needs to raise their RPI and Strength of Schedule profile. While there are no exact numbers or requirements to guarantee a selection, generally an RPI around 50 and a Strength of Schedule under 100 are added benefits.

Goal: 11 Conference wins, RPI around 50, and SOS under 100
Current: 5-3, with 10 games remaining (6 home, 4 road)
RPI: 73 (using realtimerpi.com)
SOS: 129 (using realtimerpi.com)
Others: 46 (Pomeroy), 57 (ESPN's BPI), & 68 (Dance Card), Next Four Out (Bracketology)

Home Games:
The Clemson home slate is back loaded as only 3 of Clemson's first 8 games were played at home, leaving the Tigers with 6 of 10 contests at home. Even with how well this team plays at home, it is unreasonable to expect them to run the next 6 games. Throw in two of those games are against a solid UVA team and a Pitt team that crushed Clemson by 30 earlier in the season.

Best bet it to split the UVA and Pitt games and snag the other 4 games, giving Clemson 10 conference wins and needing only one road win to reach 11.

What really happens? Clemson ekes out an ugly game against GT Tuesday, gets the UVA-Pitt split, but drops a game to Maryland or Miami, making Clemson 4-2 and giving them 9 total conference wins.

Road Games:
In all honesty, outside of the trip to Syracuse, the road schedule is actually easier than the home schedule. Clemson should be able to grab at least one, if not two wins between Notre Dame, GT, & Wake. If they get just one, the ACC Tournament becomes critical and Selection Sunday nerve-wracking. If they get two, that would give them 5 road wins, which may be enough to get them in the tournament. If they get none, they better hope to sweep the home schedule.

What really happens? Clemson is unable to scratch out a win at ND, but rebounds to lock down both GT & Wake, giving Clemson the 11 wins they need.

Summary:
Clemson needs to find six additional conference wins among their final 10 games. In addition to reaching 11 conference wins, Clemson would also reach the 20 win mark. For a team picked to finish ahead of only VaTech, just getting the five wins they have seems like quite the accomplishment. To add six more seems unthinkable. But if Clemson plays defense the way they did against Duke & FSU, then anyone remaining on their schedule, other than Syracuse, is beatable. However, if they turn in performances like they did at Pitt and UNC, then 5 conference wins will be where they remain.

No matter what anyone thinks, a ticket to the Big Dance is a viable option for this team. The good news is they are the only ones who can determine their future. The bad news is it won't be pretty.