As part of our multi-part Clemson basketball season preview, we breakdown the Tigers 2016-17 schedule.
The Tigers open the season and their revamped arena against Georgia. Last season, the Bulldogs blew out the Tigers in Stegeman Coliseum, and they should be a very solid opponent once again. Expect them to finish towards the top of the SEC.
After facing Georgia, but before getting a chance to tally any wins against cupcakes, the Tigers will head to Orlando for the Tire Pros Puerto Rico Tip Off. Yes, the Puerto Rico Tip-off is in Florida. It was moved due to concerns over the Zika virus (too bad it doesn’t overlap with the ACCCG in football). There they will play Davidson and then either Missouri or Xavier. If they go 2-0 they’ll play a third game, most likely against Oklahoma. The Tigers won’t be the favorite to win the tournament, but in a fairly soft non-conference schedule this is the kind of challenge we want.
After that, it’s four cupcakes and Nebraska. Clemson needs to sweep these five games. Nebraska is expected to finish in the bottom three of the B1G and Clemson gets them at home. We need to get a win that ACC/B1G Challenge matchup.
Then come back-to-back road games against Alabama and South Carolina. Both lost key players and are not expected to finish towards the top of the SEC. These are very winnable road trips. They they end non-conference play with a game against UNCW.
Don’t expect a 12-0 start. The Tigers may drop a game to an SEC opponent and one in Orlando, particularly with Center Elijah Thomas ineligible for non-conference play following transfer. The Tigers just need to survive non-conference play without Thomas and get to the long ACC schedule without too many blemishes. The Tigers may not pick up any great wins in non-conference, but they’ll have plenty of opportunities in ACC play, so it’ll be all about avoiding the ridiculous losses we’ve seen the past few years.
Obviously, the navigating the ACC schedule is always a challenge, but Clemson fans can’t complain too much year. The Tigers don’t face any of the league’s titans twice, and instead get double-dibs against beatable opponents: Wake Forest, Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, and Florida State. They have two very challenging back-to-backs (UNC then at ND, and later in the season Syracuse and then at Duke), but overall it’s a balanced schedule that’s not overly front or back loaded. Take a look:
The Tigers are fortunate to have a manageable ACC schedule that will give them a handful of opportunities for the type of resume wins they’ll need to make the NCAA tournament. Will they do it? We discuss that in our final article of the season preview: Expectations and Predictions.