It is a good challenge to have. But it is still a challenge.
Clemson has exceeded the expectations of everyone outside the program through the first three months of the season and is alone in second place in the ACC with seven conference games to play.
The Tigers have won three consecutive games and four of five heading into Thursday’s matchup with Pittsburgh, a team that is winless in the ACC.
With a 19-4 record, 8-3 mark in ACC play and top-20 ranking, the Clemson basketball program has attracted a lot of eyes. Media attention has grown and classmates are heaping praise on the Tigers.
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Clemson coach Brad Brownell is happy his team is receiving notoriety for its impressive season but is working with his players on how to deal with the added attention.
With national projections having Clemson as a No. 2 or No. 3 seed, the Tigers appear almost a lock to return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since the 2010-11 season.
“We certainly know where we are, that there’s no reason why we can’t have a great season,” Brownell said.
Clemson is 3-1 since losing arguably its best player, Donte Grantham, for the season and is heavily favored to beat a Pitt squad that has dropped 11 consecutive games.
Still, Brownell expects a hard game against a Panthers team that hung tough with Syracuse, N.C. State, West Virginia and Oklahoma State.
“We have more experienced players, but I do think their team is improving. I think they play pretty doggone hard, and they’re physical, strong bodies,” Brownell said. “I think our interior guys need to play well. We’ve got to continue to push to get consistency and even more productivity out of Elijah (Thomas) and Mark (Donnal) and Aamir (Simms) and Malik (William) and those guys.”
Who: Pittsburgh (8-16, 0-11) at No. 16 Clemson (19-4, 8-3)
When: 7 p.m. Thursday
Where: Littlejohn Coliseum
KenPom prediction: Clemson 73, Pittsburgh 54
Radio: 93.1 FM