Sitting in a tie for second (thanks to Louisville’s self-imposed postseason ban) with single-digit ACC games left (8), Clemson is well on the NCAA Tournament radar and in a position to comfortably make the field.
Just look at the remaining schedule.
The Tigers (14-8, 7-3 ACC) are tied for fourth nationally in top-50 RPI wins (6). Three of those are against the top-25 (Miami, Louisville, Duke), where they are 3-2 (6-4 against top-50; 7-6 against top-100).
Big wins already on the resume, the road to DC’s ACC Tournament isn’t filled with landmines.
Starting Saturday at Cassell Coliseum, six of the final eight games come against teams 11th or lower in the ACC standings (pre-Louisville ban) — playing Georgia Tech (12th; 76 RPI) and Boston College (15th; 205 RPI) twice and taking road trips to triple-digit RPI teams N.C. State (100) and Virginia Tech (127).
And the toughest remaining tests might be at home, hosting Notre Dame next Monday (7th; 35 RPI) and Virginia later (3rd; 8 RPI).
As Clemson stats guru and radio color commentator Tim Bourret pointed out on Twitter, the Tigers have grabbed six wins in a row in the non-home-and-home ACC games, which could be crucial for any tiebreakers down the stretch. Two of those came against foes a half-game behind in the standings (Pittsburgh and Miami). Making it seven against the Hokies and eight-straight against the Fighting Irish could go a long way in the fight for a two-day bye at the ACC tourney.
RPI still isn’t a big fan of the Tigers, ranking 75th — 10th among ACC peers, which is why some NCAA projections are skeptical.
ESPN is one of a few that has Clemson not only in, but not in the ‘First Four’ like the most recent Tigers’ tourney experience (2011).
On CBSSports.com, Clemson isn’t even in the “first four out,” while Syracuse is securely in as a 10-seed with a 41 RPI and a 6-5 mark in ACC action. The Tigers have the head-to-head edge there, and the Orange still have dates at Louisville and UNC.
Sports Illustrated’s latest has the ‘Cuse out and Clemson in, as a 9-seed.
Anyway you slice it, racking up wins is the key for a Big Dance berth now, and reaching the 20 ‘W’ mark before the ACC tourney is viable.