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The Case for Clemson

Posted by cuorange on February 17, 2010

There is considerable angst these days among Clemson fans on whether or not the Tigers will be a part of March Madness.

At first glance there doesn’t appear to be much to worry about. The Tigers are 18-7 overall, 6-5 in the ACC, an RPI of 30, strength of schedule of 34th and have a winning record against top 25 teams (5-4). Furthermore the Tigers are 7-3 against teams ranked 1-50 in RPI and 5-2 against teams ranked 51-100 in RPI. All solid numbers that would seem to indicate there is little to worry about come selection Sunday.

However, there is a little nagging suspicion that the Tigers reputation (late season troubles, losing twice in a row in the first round of NCAA tourney) may come back to haunt.

With 5 games left in the regular season, Clemson has 3 road games (Maryland, Florida State, Wake Forest) along with home games against Virginia and Georgia Tech. For me the timing of the games is what may cause the Tigers a problem.

First, Clemson must beat a falling (2-5 in last 7 games) Virginia team at home. A loss here would be almost too much to overcome.

Next, are road trips to Maryland and Florida State (I think you now see why the Virginia game is so crucial). These are most likely two losses.

Then the Tigers final home game is with a tall, talented but struggling Georgia Tech team (lost 3 of last 4). Assuming losses in the two prior games, this becomes a crucial game for the Tigers, before they close the regular season at Wake Forest (probably a loss).

Assuming the Tigers hold court and win at home and lose on the road, they will end up 20-10 overall and 8-8 in the ACC. A first round win in the ACC Tournament would lock up a bid, but the Tigers probably get in even with a loss in the opening round (leaving them 20-11).

However, if the Tigers manage to go worse than 2-3 in their final five games I believe they will need to win at least 1 game in the ACC Tournament to advance to the Big Dance.

The selection committee is not going to choose a 19-12 Clemson team with 5 losses in their last 6 games (including ACC Tournament).

That loss to Illinois in December may haunt the Tigers yet.

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