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.

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