5 Things Clemson Basketball Must Do to Make the 2014 NCAA Tournament
Clemson Can Still Make the Big Dance in March
I love the NCAA basketball tournament. It’s the best time of the year. I’ve talked about that at length when I outlined five teams I believe could be possible Cinderella teams in this year’s tournament and when I gave you 10 reasons to fill out an NCAA bracket this year. This article won’t focus on my love of March Madness. Just know it’s my favorite time of year and I already can’t wait for Selection Sunday (March 16).
My wife and I both graduated from Clemson University and we are both huge Clemson fans. I previously gave five reasons why Clemson would get into the NCAA tournament. But what does Clemson need to do to earn a spot in the Big Dance?
The Tigers blew an opportunity to increase their chances pretty much immediately after my article was published — they lost to the Virginia Cavaliers at home. While I seriously doubt the Cavaliers are national title contenders, that would have been a quality win for the Tigers. Virginia (22-5 overall) currently sits atop the ACC with a 13-1 conference record, in a conference that includes Syracuse, Duke and North Carolina (on a serious tear lately, including a big win over Duke Thursday night after the Tar Heels started 1-4 in conference play).
Quick side note: I loathe Duke. It started because of Christian Laettner and continues to this day mainly because their fanbase, which is passionate, and I can respect, but that it is one of the most insufferable fanbases in all of sports. I know it borders on an almost irrational hatred at this point (like my intense dislike of the Dallas Cowboys which I talked about in yesterday’s article about the NFL salary cap increase), but I can’t help it. I know it’s not every Duke fan that is intolerable. My best friend from college is a Duke fan and he doesn’t fall into that category. This is just how I feel about Duke fans overall. Sorry, Cameron Crazies, I delight in figuring out how early I can have Duke out in my bracket and then doing my happy dance when they make an early exit. OK, I don’t really have a happy dance, mainly because I cannot dance to save my life, but you get the point.
Back to a team I love, the Clemson Tigers. The loss to Virginia was brutal, but by no means did it end the Tigers’ chances of getting to the NCAA tournament. I’m looking forward to Clemson participating in March Madness and then trying to keep my head from exploding as I figure out how to fill out their portion of the bracket so I can root for Clemson the entire time and keep my bracket from busting. I know I’m a huge homer when it comes to the teams I root for, but even I can’t say Clemson has a realistic chance at winning the national title this year.
But can Clemson get into the NCAA tournament? Yes. Here are five things the Tigers must do to punch their ticket to the big dance.
5. Play Like They Know This Will Be K.J. McDaniels' Last Season at Clemson
McDaniels is a 6-foot-6 junior forward and the best player on Clemson’s team. McDaniels can play great on both ends of the floor and is NBA ready. He is projected to be a late-first or early-second round pick in the 2014 NBA Draft. As much as I would love him to stay at Clemson for his senior season, there is no way he does. His teammates need to realize this and play the rest of the season as hard as K.J. does and not waste his talent. If they do, items four through one may happen and we’ll get to see McDaniels bring his talents to
South Beach March Madness.
Side note — I’m a huge fan of what McDaniels does on the court, but what he does off the court is impressive too. K.J. looks in the classified ads and internet sites to try and find abused or neglected dogs, especially his favorite breed, the American Pit Bull Terrier. McDaniels then adopts the dogs and coordinates with his mom to find safe homes for the dogs. Excellent work, K.J.
4. Keep Playing Great Defense
Clemson has played great defense this season and is currently ranked second in the nation in scoring defense (gives up 56.0 PPG), trailing only Virginia (55.5 PPG). Continuing to play great defense will help the Tigers take care of items five through three and possibly item No. 1.
3. Win Four of Their Last Five Games
Clemson’s remaining schedule is Georgia Tech and Wake Forest on the road, and Maryland, Miami and Pittsburgh at home. If Clemson can split the road games and win all three at home, that will increase their chances at joining the fun that is March Madness.
2. Beat Pittsburgh in the Regular Season Finale
The Panthers are 20-6 overall and 8-5 in conference and were ranked in the top 25 until they lost to Syracuse at home and followed that up with a loss to North Carolina at Chapel Hill three days later. Clemson would have to win their other four remaining games in pretty convincing fashion and lose a close game to Pittsburgh to keep that loss from really hurting their March Madness chances.
1. Make a Run in the ACC Tournament
This could be tall order with teams like Virginia, Duke, Syracuse, North Carolina (does anyone want to play them right now?) and even Pittsburgh, but if Clemson can win two or three games in the ACC Tournament (March 12-16), that could go a long way in improving their stock in the eyes of the Selection Committee. Of course, if Clemson somehow won the ACC Tournament, anything else they do is superfluous because they would then be an automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament.