Clemson’s men’s basketball team went 6-2 in January. Replicate that in February and the Tigers could be sitting pretty come March.
That quest will continue Tuesday when Clemson plays at Wake Forest to tip off the second half of its Atlantic Coast Conference schedule.
A second NCAA Tournament appearance in coach Brad Brownell’s six seasons could be in the offing, and it would be the program’s first since 2010-11, Brownell’s first season.
“It doesn’t change the way we do things,” Brownell said. “We have conversations with our team about it, but we want to make sure they don’t get so worried about that that they forget to do the things we did to win.
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“It’s good in terms of publicity, giving our guys confidence and motivating our fans, for us to continue to play better here down the stretch.”
Clemson is 13-8, including 6-3 in the ACC. Wake Forest is 10-11, 1-8. But Brownell knows that the Demon Deacons’ next-to-last-place standing in the league belies the talent they have on hand.
Wake Forest has played the toughest schedule in the nation, including six ranked teams in January, and counts a one-point loss to Virginia and a two-point loss to Virginia Tech during the past couple of weeks.
“Our transition defense has got to be a heckuva lot better than it was against Florida State,” Brownell said, referring to the Tigers’ 76-65 loss Saturday.
Clemson has traditionally struggled against Wake Forest, regardless of either team’s standing. Consider this: Clemson has won at Wake Forest once in its past 20 road games.
Tuesday’s game will be the only one this season against Wake Forest, and it will be the Tigers’ first game at Joel Coliseum since February 2014 – a 62-57 defeat.
Clemson’s success depends largely on the play of junior forward Jaron Blossomgame, who is the team’s leading scorer and rebounder. Blossomgame has produced four consecutive ACC games with at least 20 points, becoming the first Clemson player to turn that trick since Terrell McIntyre in 1988-89.
“We thought he’d take another step, and he’s done that and become a very good player in this league,” Brownell said. “Landry (Nnoko) and Jordan (Roper) are seniors who have started for a couple years and we hoped they’d continue their development, and they have.”