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No. 19 Tigers gear up for match at Wake Forest

Three days after upsetting Duke, Clemson faces another test against red-hot Wake Forest.

NCAA Basketball: Duke at Clemson Anderson Independent Mail-USA TODAY Sports

Clemson at Wake Forest
Time: 9:00pm
Location: Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum - Winston-Salem, NC
TV: Bally Sports / ACCNX

If you placed a bet that Clemson would enter Tuesday’s contest at Wake Forest at 7-0 in ACC play, a 1.5 game lead in the ACC standings, and ranked 19th in the latest AP poll, you could probably cash out with a big payday before tipoff tonight. If you were like the rest of us, you are quite baffled at what the Tigers have accomplished so far in 2023, and you’ve regained the hope that has so often crept back in during the decade-plus Brad Brownell era after runs like these.

However, this team feels different. Clemson (15-3, 7-0 ACC) is undefeated in league play through seven games for the first time in school history and are in-line to win 10+ games in the ACC for just the fifth time in Brownell’s 13 seasons. The Tigers have a game-and-a-half lead in the ACC and find themselves ranked for the first time in exactly two years.

Despite the success, there is still a long road in the ACC, and the Tigers are most likely still behind Virginia and Miami in the odds to win the ACC regular season crown, something the Tigers have not done since 1990.

Saturday’s win over the Blue Devils will certainly go down as one of the bigger wins of the Brad Brownell era, but what happens moving forward will play a huge role in his future at Clemson. With an ACC that is having its worst year in recent memory, winning the games they need to win could be enough to take the crown, but that has been the plague of this program far too often.

Enter Wake Forest (13-5, 5-2 ACC), winners of three straight and five of their last six games dating back to their own upset of Duke in December. The Demon Deacons are tied for third in the ACC and have all of the ingredients to upset Clemson on Tuesday night. With senior guard Tyree Appleby and sophomore guard Cameron Hildreth, Wake Forest is not a team Clemson can look past, despite the 20-point win over the Demon Deacons in Littlejohn last month. This is an experienced team that is one of the better opponents left on the Tigers’ schedule.

Tuesday night’s gives Clemson an opportunity to all but eliminate Wake Forest from passing them in the ACC standings. A win would put Clemson three games ahead of Wake Forest with the tie-breaker making it essentially a four game lead. Meanwhile, Miami gears up for a three-game road trip that includes Duke, Pittsburgh, and Virginia has tough matchups with rival Virginia Tech and Wake Forest coming up. Virginia is still a huge threat and the likely favorite to win the ACC, but Clemson can really turn the heat on the ACC with a win over the Demon Deacons.

Clemson ranks 52nd in KenPom’s team rankings while Wake Forest is 21 spots below at 73rd. Winning road ACC games is extremely tough though and because of this, KenPom gives Clemson just a 47% chance to win in Winston-Salem, predicting a 76-75 win for the Demon Deacons.