Bubble Watch: Clemson Basketball’s NCAA Tournament Hopes Take Huge Hit With Loss

Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

The Clemson Tigers had a five-point lead in the closing seconds of their game with the Pittsburgh Panthers and looked well on the way to victory, but the Panthers had other ideas. Lamar Patterson hit a three-pointer with three seconds on the clock to cut the lead to two and James Newkirk stole the ensuing inbounds and hit a jumper as time expired to force overtime. It was all Pittsburgh from then on, as the Panthers scored the first seven points of the extra session and cruised to a 83-78 victory.

With the collapse didn’t just cost the Tigers the game, it burst the Tigers’ NCAA tournament bubble.

A win would have put the Tigers at 20-10 on the season and with a win over the Duke Blue Devils on their resume, an at-large bid was attainable. But, sitting at 19-11 instead, the Tigers are now faced with must-win games in the ACC tournament. Clemson was on the edge of bubble contention before the loss, but now find themselves with a lot of work to do to climb back into consideration.

The Tigers blowing their chance at securing an at-large bid is truly a shame, as they are wasting a great season from K.J. McDaniels. He is leading Clemson in scoring, rebounding, steals and blocks per game and ranks second on the team in both assists per game and field goal percentage. With a 16.9 points per game average, McDaniels is the only player to average double-digits in the scoring department. He had another strong performance against Pittsburgh, scoring 24 points while grabbing four rebounds and dishing out four assists.

For the Tigers to make a run in the ACC tournament and earn a bid in the NCAA tournament, someone will have to step up and help McDaniels. He had a solid supporting cast in the loss to the Panthers, as Jaron Blossomgame scored 14, and Rod Hall and Jordan Roper both added 12. Getting this kind of production consistently will be key for Clemson moving forward.

Spencer Impellizzeri is a MLB writer for Rant Sports. He also covers college basketball. Follow him on Twitter @Spence_I or on Google +

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