Despite a soul-crushing run of losses – close and sometimes not-so-much – Clemson coach Brad Brownell says his team still has the right mindset going into the ACC tournament.
“We just haven’t been able to finish some games,” Brownell said, as the Tigers hope to break a six-game losing streak Thursday night against Florida State (17-14, 9-9 ACC). “I don’t know if the schedule has gotten difficult at times. Our home games have come against really hard teams – teams that are playing well and you maybe have to play a little bit better and we haven’t been able to close it.”
He points to the 62-49 loss this past weekend at No. 6 Miami as an example of a team still locked-in.
“If our guys hadn’t of fought as hard as they have, I could understand where somebody could say they’ve given in,” he said. “But we just played the first-place team in the league, who’s playing to win the league. They just lost to Georgia Tech so they didn’t play as well or hard that night.
“And we really (had) nothing to play for – zero, I mean 10-seed, 11-seed – does it really matter? It’s 25-all at half. Our starting center is in foul trouble on the bench and we’re just grinding.
“We’re not good enough to win because the offensive drought came in the second half and got us. Our guys were fighting and scratching and I think we’ve done that by in large most games.”
Counting this past Saturday, Clemson has scored 60 or less in 11-of-18 conference games, and less than 50 in four.
Brownell says every coach looks inward in times like these.
“You’re constantly figuring out who’s playing well,” Brownell said. “Who to play, why to play, how to play, tweaking things to be better, and we just haven’t been able to figure it out with this group.”
It’s a task that’s been necessary at every stop so far in his 13 years as a head coach.
“Some coaches may be out there (saying) that’s the way we do it and that’s the way we do it – that’s fine,” said Brownell. “I’ve never been at schools where we just had the best players and we could just do it that way.”
ACC Tournament Outlook
With the sheer number of upsets in college basketball this year, are we due for a wild week in Greensboro, N.C.? (Well, as wild as a week can get in Greensboro).
The ACC Tourney is certainly due for some excitement.
In the last two seasons, there hasn’t been an upset that wasn’t within three seeds (10-seed Virginia Tech over 7-seed Clemson one of them last year).
It’s been since 2009 that a non-1 or 2 seed has won the title (been since 2004 that a team seeded lower than third won it, Maryland).
9:30ish – 6. Florida State (17-14, 9-9) v. 11. Clemson (13-17, 5-13)
Previous Meeting(s): 71-66 FSU in Clemson; 60-57 FSU in Tallahassee.
What’s on the line (besides advancement): For the Tigers, it’s keeping their skid from dropping to losses in 9-of-10 games. FSU is the returning ACC Tournament champ, and continue to build on a strong finish, graduating just one scholarship senior.
Key matchup: Clemson guard offensive production against FSU D – Clemson matched Miami blow-for-blow early down on the road last weekend with 12 quick points from freshman Jordan Roper in the game’s first five minutes, but he didn’t score again. The other Tiger guards contributed four points total in the 62-49 loss. Clemson is far from a guard-oriented team, but four points in the final 35 minutes of a game isn’t going to cut it Thursday.
The difference: FSU is playing well – Clemson isn’t, which explains the disparity in seeding. That may not mean a thing come the Thursday nightcap in Greensboro, but we shall see. The Tigers actually own the better of two poor average scoring margins in ACC play (-5.2 to -6.1). They had the Seminoles on the ropes in Tallahassee before some foul trouble setup a banked-in Michael Snaer buzzer-beater three-pointer. Have a feeling the Tigers might make this interesting, but I’m struggling to pick the upset.
Pick: Florida State
12:00 – 8. Boston College (15-16, 7-11) v. 9. Georgia Tech (16-14, 6-12)
Previous Meeting(s): 74-72 BC home win.
What’s on the line (besides advancement): Boston College can win its fourth-straight game.
Key matchup: Jackets holding down Hanlan – Georgia Tech’s scoring can come from any number of places, often doesn’t come enough en route to the 6-12 conference mark, but BC has been able to count on freshman guard Olivier Hanlan. In the last six games, Hanlan has scored 20-plus points in upsets of Maryland and Clemson and double-figures in eight-straight.
The difference: Both teams have found something down the stretch, with the Eagles winning three-straight and Georgia Tech 2-of-4. Tech led the bulk of the matchup in Chestnut Hill over the weekend before letting it slip away at the end. BC has some solid shooters, a different-than-most playing style on both ends and confidence right now.
Pick: Boston College
2:30ish – 5. NC State (22-9, 11-7) v. 12. Virginia Tech (13-18, 4-14)
Previous Meeting(s): 90-86 OT win for the Wolfpack at home.
What’s on the line (besides advancement): State is playing for NCAA seeding and maybe a sleeper run to a title after a disappointing regular season as the preseason favorite. For the Hokies, Erick Green can keep his school record-setting scoring season going with the upset.
Key matchup: Hokies guarding Wolfpack forward Scott Wood – He hit six three-pointers to lead State in scoring (22) in the first matchup. The Hokies allowed Deacs guard C.J. Harris to knock down six from long-range (out of six attempts) in a 90-79 road loss on Sunday.
The difference: NC State scores (75.1 ppg in ACC play) and the Hokies don’t defend (75.7 ppg allowed).
Pick: NC State
7:00 – 7. Maryland (20-11, 8-10) v. 10. Wake Forest (13-17, 6-12)
Previous Meeting(s): Maryland 67-57 in Winston-Salem; 86-60 Maryland in College Park.
What’s on the line (besides advancement): The Deacs can top their best win mark yet under Jeff Bzdelik.
Key matchup: Deacs’ second chances against Maryland’s size – Wake Forest didn’t shoot well in either matchup against Maryland (32.7 and 34.4 percent), and consequently, were also a combined minus-31 in rebound margin.
The difference: Motivation is a tricky thing this time of year, and Maryland, who had been a borderline NCAA Tourney bubble team until recently, is going to struggle to have much come Thursday. They’ve lost 5-of-7 coming in, while Wake snapped a run of three-straight losses at home against Virginia Tech. The Deacs have been ridiculously bad in the ACC Tourney under Bzdelik, losing by 19 points per game…so I’m stepping out on a limb here for the upset pick.
Pick: Wake Forest
Round Two Projections (Prediction in Bold)
12:00 – 1. Miami (24-6, 15-3) v. 8. Boston College
2:30ish – 4. Virginia (21-10, 11-7) v. 5. NC State
7:00 – 2. Duke (27-4, 14-4) v. Wake Forest
9:30ish – 3. UNC (22-9, 12-6) v. Florida State
1:00 – 1. Miami v. 5. NC State
3:00 – 2. Duke v. 3.UNC
1:00 – 1. Miami v. 2. Duke
The Why: Miami has stumbled to the finish, splitting their final six games, while Duke has rolled since getting Ryan Kelly back. After the Hurricanes drilled the Blue Devils in Coral Gables (90-63) and Duke edged Miami (79-76) in the rematch, this promises to be a classic. Both teams are battle-tested, but I have a feeling Miami gets it together for a strong run into the NCAA Tournament.