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Previewing Clemson Basketball’s ACC Schedule

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With non-conference play over, Clemson will look to prove their mettle against a challenging ACC slate.

Clemson v Auburn Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

Clemson’s non-conference performance was respectable, but the Tigers lacked a resume-building win. Now, Brad Brownell and his Clemson Tigers will look to navigate their way through the loaded ACC. According to Kenpom.com, the ACC has four teams that are ranked inside the top ten in the country. Clemson finished non-conference play with a record of 10-3. If the Tigers want to make back-to-back tournament appearances, they will be forced to play their best basketball throughout their strenuous ACC schedule.

Duke belongs in a tier of their own. Clemson already confirmed this by getting obliterated by the Blue Devils. Brad Brownell and the Tigers are just lucky that they will not have to see Zion Williamson and Duke again this year.

Tier 1:

at Florida State 26%
at NC State 29%
at Syracuse 36%
vs. Virginia 35%
at. Louisville 38%
vs. North Carolina 40%

These game will also be difficult. Kenpom gives Clemson a 26%-40% chance in each of these games netting just two expected wins from this group of particularly challenging ACC games. Playing blue-bloods on the road will not be an easy task for the the Tigers. The most winnable game in this tier is at Louisville. The next best opportunity is at Syracuse, which is their second game of ACC play. Despite high-expectations and generally positive ratings from KenPom, Cuse has already lost four games including a neutral site game to 9-6 UConn and a home game to Old Dominion. The Orangemen have their typical suffocating defense, but have struggled shooting the ball - particularly from three. It’s too early to feel critical, but it may be a ACC standings swing game when we look back in a month.

Wins from this tier Clemson those resume building wins they failed to earn in non-conference play. Brad Brownell and the rest of the Clemson coaching staff will need to devise a plan to avoid going 0-6 in this tier of play. 1-2 wins from this group is critical and it begins by winning at Syracuse on Wednesday night.

Tier 2:

at Georgia Tech 58%
vs. Virginia Tech 44%
at Miami 44%
vs. Syracuse 61%
vs. Florida State 50%
at Notre Dame 45%

Clemson is a better than Notre Dame, Miami, and Georgia Tech, but those games are on the road and winning road games in the ACC is one of the hardest things to do in all of college basketball.

Florida State, Virginia Tech, and Syracuse are on Clemson’s level or potentially slightly better, but Clemson gets these teams at home. 2-1 or 1-2 seem about equally likely from this game.

Clemson must go .500 against this tandem of teams and if they fail to secure enough wins against those Tier 1 games, they may need more.

NCAA Basketball: Clemson at Syracuse Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Tier 3:

vs. Georgia Tech 80%
vs. Pittsburgh 76%
vs. Wake Forest 87%
vs. Boston College 78%
at Pittsburgh 56%

This is the most important tier in the Tiger’s ACC schedule. If the Tigers are to make a return to the NCAA tournament, they will need to go 5-0 or at worst 4-1 in this tier. Clemson can’t afford bad losses. Playing five of the worst teams in the ACC should be good for the Tigers, but the ACC has proven to be very unpredictable in past seasons.

Overall:

If they Tigers can go 2-4 in those tier 1 games, 3-3 in tier 2 games, and 5-0 in the tier three games, they’ll finish 10-8 (with the Duke loss already on the ledger). Getting into the NCAA tournament for the second straight season will not be an easy task for the Tigers, but hat should be enough to earn another NCAA tournament berth.