Enigmatic Clemson Tigers Still Clinging to NCAA Tournament Hopes

By Brad Stephens
Daniel Shirey – USA TODAY Sports

The NCAA tournament hopes of the Clemson Tigers were on life support Saturday morning and the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets tried to pull the plug this afternoon in Atlanta. However, after trailing at halftime and seeing their postseason dreams slipping away, the Tigers awakened and pulled away late to secure a 63-55 victory. K.J. McDaniels, Mr. Everything for Clemson, led all scorers with 16 points.

Clemson has been an enigma all season. Despite being one of the best defenses in the nation and having the superb performance of McDaniels, the Tigers have not taken advantage of an easy schedule and find themselves in the Netherlands of the NCAA bubble discussion.

If there was a year for the Tigers to step to the forefront of the ACC, this was it. The Tigers played four ranked teams all season with only one victory over the Duke Blue Devils, who were No. 16 at the time. The Pittsburgh Panthers blitzed the Tigers by 33 points Jan. 21, the Syracuse Orange topped them by 13 Feb. 9 and last week, the Virginia Cavaliers beat them at Littlejohn Coliseum in a game the Tigers desperately needed to win.

When the NCAA selection committee reviews this along with losses to the Massachusetts Minutemen, dreadful Auburn Tigers, below-average Notre Dame Fighting Irish and double-digit defeats at the hands of the Florida State Seminoles and North Carolina Tar Heels, the choice to include them will be extremely difficult to make. A victory over the Jackets will not impress the committee by any means, but a loss would have certainly been the death knell for Brad Brownell‘s squad.

The Tigers have four remaining regular season games, including a rematch with Pittsburgh. The Tigers need to win all four and make a deep run in the ACC tournament to possibly secure a spot in the NCAA tournament. The pressure is on and Clemson responded on Saturday, living to fight another day.

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