In an uphill battle for first-team All-ACC honors, K.J. McDaniels has picked the right time of year to kick it into another gear.
Going into Tuesday's 7 p.m. tip with N.C. State (16-9, 6-6 ACC), the Birmingham, Ala. native has already posted double-figures 21-of-24 games, but he's scored 19 or more points in four of Clemson's last five contests.
Against the nation's top scoring defense Saturday, McDaniels shot 6-of-13 from the field and 11-of-13 from the free throw line for 24 total, the most Virginia had allowed in 13 conference games.
Clemson (15-9, 6-6) has had 12 players named ACC first-team, bookended by forwards Vince Yockel (1958) and Trevor Booker (2010).
In just the last 10 seasons, Duke has had 13 and UNC has had 11 named among the ACC's five-best on the floor. In an expansion-era ACC nine of those 10 years, "Triangle" area players have made up 54 percent of the first team selections.
Clemson coach Brad Brownell recognizes his star junior would have a little more attention elsewhere, but it's a double-edged sword.
"Certainly I think at one of the more high-profile programs right now, that would be the case," Brownell said. "It's kind of like a recruiting question. Would he be the high-profile guy right there right now? There would be a lot of high-profile guys with him. Right now he's our high-profile guy and that's because of our situation.
"I do think he would get more recognition at some of those programs because those teams are followed more closely."
McDaniels is in the top-10 in six categories the ACC tracks, leading in blocks (2.8) and also pacing the conference forwards on free throws (85.8).
Politics can certainly play a factor with the top-five vote-getters taking the All-ACC honor. Brownell hopes McDaniels has done enough to grab the attention.
"I've been pushing him all year," he said. "Every time I talk to people I say I hope people take notice of the kind of player he is. He's having a fantastic year. His consistency is what we've all been hoping to see. I think he's starting to show that.
"When you have 24 or 30, those are huge games. Normal game is 15 or 16, for him to have huge games – he's playing at a very high level. I think people are starting to take notice of that."
McDaniels faces off Tuesday with a player almost guaranteed an all-conference selection in Wolfpack sophomore forward T.J. Warren. In ACC play, McDaniels (17.8 PPG) and Warren (22.2) pace the league in points a game.
N.C. State has been streaky, and they're coming off a heartbreaker.
The Wolfpack began ACC action 1-4, but recovered to win 5-of-6 before a date with No. 1 Syracuse Saturday. Syracuse-State was within three points either way the final six minutes of the game, where an Orange layup with seven seconds left proved to be the difference.
“They're playing really, really well," Brownell said. "Mark (Gottfried)'s done a good job with them. T.J. Warren, those of us coaches all felt like he was going to have a tremendous season and be the go-to guy for N.C. State.
"He's a guy that's unbelievably efficient. He's got a quick release and he's 6-foot-8...He's a tremendous matchup problem for anybody."
Brownell is "hopeful" sophomore center Landry Nnoko (flu) will be back to aid Clemson's defense against him. Nnoko missed the Virginia game, where the Cavaliers finished plus-13 in rebound margin.
Both sides are in the middle of the pack fighting for postseason tournament position. Clemson would be the No. 6 seed and N.C. State, 7, if the ACC Tournament started today.
Riding their longest losing streak coming in (3), the Tigers’ coach isn't panicking.
"We lost to a No. 1 team, No. (17) team at home and then in double overtime on the road," he said. "It's not like we've played that bad. We've played OK. Not good enough to win. We're not beating our guys up or anything like that. We still have a lot to play for."