Lately, a late-night Thursday tilt at the ACC Tournament hasn’t been the norm for either Clemson or returning champ Florida State.
It’s been since they last met in the ACC Tourney in 2007 that one or the other didn’t have a bye to the Friday’s quarterfinals.
But struggles midseason for the 6-seed Seminoles (17-14, 9-9 ACC) and in the season’s second half for the 11-seed Tigers (13-17, 5-13) have them there today. Tipoff is slated for at least 20 minutes after Maryland-Wake Forest’s 7 p.m. start.
Clemson and FSU have played each other six times in the tournament, all in openers, since Florida State joined the conference in 1991, with the Seminoles holding a 4-2 edge.
Their two games this season went down to the wire, both in FSU’s favor, including a banked-in, long-range buzzer-beater by senior Seminoles guard Michael Snaer to prevent overtime down in Tallahassee, Fla.
Florida State has won three-straight in the series overall, after Clemson coach Brad Brownell started his career 4-1 against them.
"I certainly feel like we can beat them," Brownell said. "They certainly have proven they can beat us. We’ve had a lot of good games with Florida State over the years. It’ll be competitive."
Despite the two-game series, Florida State has played 13 contests and Clemson 12 since their last matchup on Jan. 24. In that stretch, neither have a winning record, but FSU has won 3-of-4 to the finish, while the Tigers have dropped 8-of-9.
"They’re playing well and feeling good about themselves," said Brownell, "so they’re coming into the game with some swagger and confidence.
"And there are some guys (on FSU) that cut down the nets at that place last year. That’ll be one of things that makes them feel even better about their opportunity."
Part of Florida State’s recent success has been the clutch senior Snaer’s improved play, averaging 18 points per game in their final four games.
Clemson All-ACC forward Devin Booker says, after the close-calls already with the Seminoles, the gameplan stays the same with Snaer.
"We’ve done a pretty good job in the past to contain him," Booker said, who averaged 17 points per game against the Seminoles this season. "He just hit the buzzer-beater. We held him well below his average.
"As long as we keep him under control and make everyone else make shots, I think we’ll be okay."
Forward Okaro White is the only other Seminole averaging double-figures (12.2 ppg) on a team that’s right there with the Tigers at the bottom of the league in scoring (11th and 12th respectively in ACC play).
Brownell said Tuesday sophomore forward K.J. McDaniels is around 90 percent healthy, returning over the weekend against Miami after missing three games with a sprained ankle. He added nine points, six rebounds and three blocks in the effort, stretching his streak to 17-straight games with a blocked shot.
McDaniels joins Booker as the only Tiger to post double-figures against FSU in both games this season, scoring 15 in each.
But as they get back McDaniels, freshman guard Adonis Filer (6.4 ppg) is listed as questionable after tweaking a knee in practice Tuesday.
In terms of history, Clemson is very much in favor of its repetition tonight, as the team who either won the last regular season game or swept the season series has lost come the tournament all six meetings between the two.
Going in with low expectations due to the losing streak isn’t ideal, but that’s where Clemson starts its postseason nonetheless.
"Nobody probably expects us to win a game," Brownell said. "We haven’t won a game in a while – it’s been tough. But we’re going to go in and approach it the right way and prepare really hard, and hopefully our players will play a little better and coaches will coach a little better and we’ll figure out a way to win."
With a victory, Clemson plays in the same time slot Friday against 3-seed UNC (22-9, 12-6).