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.

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