Clemson Basketball: The Resume

Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports

Clemson lost a heartbreaker to one of Tobacco Road's favorites. Where does that leave our resume as the NCAA tournament and the NIT consider their brackets?

Good Wins

I'm defining these as wins over KenPom top 50 teams at home or top 75 teams on the road (we'll say top 60 at a neutral site).

vs. Duke (7)
at Florida State (42)
vs. Maryland (44)

Thumping NC State (66) as bad as we did was impressive, but missed the cut. If not for a ridiculous ending we'd also have Pittsburgh on the list. We probably should have Duke listed twice, but a K.J. missed FT coupled with some Tobacco Road "magic" on the final two possessions stole that one away. We really need that win plus the opportunity to beat NC State on a neutral court.

Bad Losses

I'm defining these as losses to teams outside the top 75 at home or outside the top 100 on the road (we'll say top 80 at a neutral site).

at Auburn (138)
at Wake Forest (114)
at Notre Dame (101)

We lost to two teams that will fire their coaches for poor performances (WF and AU). The Auburn loss is by far the worst. I give credit to the players and staff for improving tremendously since that point, but it is upsetting to think that was possible early in the year. We progressed a great deal since that point.

The Wake Forest loss was maddening. K.J. struggled badly in that game as he battled an elbow injury. It's unclear exactly when the shoulder injury occurred, but that may have been a factor as well. Either way, you can't blow a 7 point halftime lead to Wake Forest. That was the loss that really popped the NCAA tournament bubble.

The Notre Dame loss isn't really that atrocious, but you'd really like to win that one. We don't have a talent advantage (probably a deficit) and played that one on the road, but there were so many missed opportunities it stings. If Hall makes a FT we win in regulation. If K.J. makes a wide open 3 off a great play on an inbounds pass (novel concept) we take it in one OT. If Nnoko finishes a layup we win in double OT

Arkansas was the next worst team we lost to (58), but they are generally excellent at home and were hitting everything they threw in the general direction of the basket. That one doesn't bother as much as the others.

I really wish we could have the most recent Pittsburgh and Duke games back (obviously we don't play Duke if we beat Pitt, but just speaking about each individually). I thought we outplayed Pitt all day and threw it away in the end. They also got a fortunate call with the clock. Duke outplayed us for most of the night, but we clawed back and should have won, but missed a key FT and they got a fortunate call.

Other Positives

Although the ACC was down this year (and that won't last), being 6th in the conference is still an impressive accomplishment. The fact that Clemson has emerged on top of schools like Maryland, NC State, Notre Dame, and the last two conference champs, FSU and Miami, is a notable accomplishment. Clemson finished 6-3 at home in ACC play and 13-3 in LJC overall. Including the ACC tournament win, Clemson won 20 games for just the 13th time in school history.

A unique stamp on this season is the success over Georgia Tech. We beat the Yellow Jackets three times in three different venues. First, in a defensive slugfest when their best players were injured. Then in McCamish Pavilion and a third time in the ACC tournament with all their best on the court. The three wins extend our win streak over the Nerd (that's a term of endearment) to 10. This is a school that calls Travis Best, Javaris Crittenton, Stephon Marbury, Derrick Favors, Jarrett Jack, Thaddeus Young, and the list goes on. For us to hold a win streak over such a program, even while they're down, is mighty impressive.

Other Negatives

RPI is a silly stat that the committee shouldn't use, but nevertheless they do and ours isn't good. An RPI of 76 is an ugly mark on our resume. Our non-conference accomplishments amount to nothing. We played only 2 teams in the top 100 of KenPom's rankings and lost to both of them. Our best non-conference wins are Davidson (118), who was playing poorly at the time, and South Carolina (121).

The ACC has 5 teams below KenPom's top 100 and we collected 6 of our 11 ACC win against them.

Prediction

Our goals in the pre-season were to make a postseason tournament (NIT or NCAA). I did not expect to reach that goal and I said as much. Fortunately, players bought into Brad Brownell's system and showed much more chemistry than last season. As a result, the "the sum was better than it's parts." We came out on top of our fair share of more talented teams. Even teams like NC State are full of 4-star talent that we simply do not have. That is a lot to be proud of, as is 20 wins, 10 (regular season) ACC wins, and 3 wins of Georgia Tech.

All that said, this is not an NCAA tournament team, however they are likely to host a home game in the opening round of the NIT, which by the goals set forth by DrB and I in the season preview makes this season a success.

They are unlikely to garner a #1 seed in the NIT, but a #2 seed would be nearly as good and would give us two home games before either traveling to play the #1 seed or hosting whoever knocked them out with a trip to the Final Four in Madison Square Garden on the line. Depending on how the rest of the conference tournaments bear our, expect a 2-3 seed in the NIT.

Note: Clemson was awarded the #3 seed in the St. John's quadrant.

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