When: Wed. 9pm
Where: Notre Dame
The last two regular season games are upon us and the Tigers are desperately clawing to get to 9 ACC wins, which might just be enough to earn an NCAA bid. If nothing else, a Clemson vs. NC State ACC tournament game is shaping up to be a win and you are in scenario for either squad. Clemson has to get this road win though, and those have been few and far between this season.
The good news is Clemson is coming off maybe their best performance of the season. The bad news is it was still a loss at home to top 5 quality UNC. The Tigers battled tooth and nail down David Skara and had the ball with a chance to tie or win. I won’t belabor the no call deal at the end, suffice to say it was hashed out already, but the bottom line was the Tigers lost a game that would have punched a ticket without a doubt.
The reason to hope? A lot of metrics are in Clemson’s favor despite not having but one truly quality win. They are 30th in KenPom’s rankings, which has only been topped by the two Brownell NCAA tournament squads. The Tigers have avoided the really bad loss, especially at home, and have played a strong enough schedule to get the nod over some other bubble teams. Still, looking at only 7 or 8 ACC wins without a deep run in the ACC tournament is probably a death knell to the NCAA hopes.
Notre Dame is a LOT like this year’s Miami team whom the Tigers lost to in excruciating fashion (and probably is the most damaging loss of the season). This is a program on a rebuilding year but has had a good run of 20+ win seasons and NCAA berths over the last few seasons. Last year’s Irish were derailed by the Bonzi Colson injury or it very well would have been in as well. The Irish start no seniors and two freshmen this year. They are still a pretty good offensive club because they have an outstanding system under Mike Brey (one of my favorite systems in NCAA hoops). It is a 4 around 1 Princeton hybrid built on multiple perimeter threats and cutting off the ball. The big issue for this year’s Irish is they aren’t shooting the 3 anywhere near the rate they have been in recent years. They actually are shooting it a couple of percentage points LESS than the Tigers this year, who we all know have struggled from 3 most of the season.
Of course, knowing the Tigers and the bad luck that seems to haunt this program, the Irish will shoot it way better than they have been and make this a serious battle. Notre Dame has lost 6 out of the last 7 and are 13-16 overall coming into tonight’s tilt. Clemson can’t mess around and lose this the way they lost to Miami. Or maybe they can...
There isn’t much to say other than it is put up or shut up time for the seniors on this team. They know what is at stake. If they play anything like they did against UNC, they will win this game and probably the next two as well. But, can they put that type of consistency together, especially on offense? That is the million dollar question.
KenPom says Clemson 66-64, so you can bet it is anyone’s guess tonight. I’ll be optimistic and say Clemson wins 68-58.